World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Nava Dance Theatre

Nadhi Thekkek, Sophia Valath
First Appearance in EDF:

Nava Dance Theatre is a bharatanatyam dance company formed in 2012 by Artistic Directors Sophia Valath and Nadhi Thekkek to create a space for classical Indian dance to tell inspirational stories. Sophia and Nadhi believe that bharatanatyam, while classical, is a modern medium that can present a variety of perspectives, inspired by anything from ancient poems to current events. The company seeks to break down barriers between classicists, veteran dancers, and people who have never seen classical Indian dance, presenting expert performances of depth and beauty.


TITLE: Lament to the Clouds
Arun Mathai, Nadhi Thekkek, Sophia Valath
Sri Jannapureddy, Jaya Kurian, Arun Mathai, Shanti Ramrattan, Priya Sreedharan, Tanusree Sreedharan, Vidya Sundaram, Nadhi Thekkek, Sophia Valath
GS Rajan
K.P. Yesodha (nattuwangam), K.P. Ramesh Babu (mridangam), Sreedev Rajagopalan (vocal), Easwar Ramakrishnan

Lament to the Clouds is inspired by the 4th century Sanskrit love epic Meghaduta—Cloud Messenger. The story tells of a demigod who is separated from his beloved. He asks a young rain cloud to send his love a message of hope.

In this performance, the male dancer expresses his heartache in dance, miming the poem’s plea—

samtaptānāmavam asi śaraṇaṃā
tat payoda priyāy āḥ

You are the refuge, O Rain-Giver,

for all who burn with anguish.

Then the beautiful cloud—an ensemble of female dancers—responds in joyful dance, comforting the lover in his sorrow. Bharatanatyam is a South Indian classical dance from Tamil Nadu, rooted in Hindu spirituality as interpreted from the ancient Natya Shastra on performance arts. Temple devadasis expressed their deep devotion through this dance. The dance form suffered greatly in the 18th-20th centuries, a result of British colonialism, and it was restructured and codified during Independence. Today, its form, dignity, and sanctity are passed down through artistic lineages.

Bharatanatyam dancers blend nritta footwork; expressive nritya dance; and theatrical natya presentations to tell ancient mythological stories. The costumes include salangai bells that are blessed before performance, ornaments of unpolished temple stones, alta coloring to enhance hand gestures and footwork, fans accentuating postures, and make-up to enhance facial expressions. In this performance, Nava dancers wear simplified colors and jewelry.

The Carnatic music for this piece is performed on mridangam, violin, and bamboo bansari flute. The melody is improvised in raga charukesi. Four of the dancers in this company were trained by Katherine Kunhiraman, who was honored with the 2014 Festival lifetime achievement award.

This piece is an excerpt from a longer work developed through the CounterPULSE Performing Diaspora Program with the support of the Ken Hempel Fund for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, with additional funding from Theatre Bay Area CA$H Grant Program, and Kickstarter contributions.

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