World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival
Chinese PAA dancer


Nitya Venkateswaran

NATIONAL/ETHNIC IDENTITY: Bharatanatyam, South Indian
First Appearance in SF EDF:

In India, it could be said that, "In the beginning was dance" since Shiva, one of the great gods in the Hindu pantheon, is believed to have danced the world into creation. He is often depicted as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance.

Bharatanatyam dance draws on the codified principals of movement and expression as laid out in the Natyashastra, a 2500 year-old treatise on the science of dramaturgy. This prolific document is used as the basis for all Indian classical dance and drama as it outlines in great detail the necessary elements to consider in the movement arts. These include, body stance, hand gesture, arm position, music, costume, facial expression and inner sentiment. Over the centuries, distinct dance styles emerged shaped by the geographical, historical and social climate of each different region of India.

Bharatanatyam is one of South India's great classical forms. It is believed to have originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu as a form of worship. Originally, devadasis, or female servants of God, performed Bharatanatyam as part of the temple rituals. The combination of text and movement was a way for the commoner to understand the sacred Hindu texts and bring them closer to spirituality.

Alameda county-based soloist, Nitya Venkateswaran, began her professional career in 2001 and has already had four solo performances in India. Her dance guru, Vishal Ramani, is artistic director of the San Jose company, Shri Krupa Dance Company, the first school of Bharatanatyam in the Bay Area, founded in 1977.


Nitya Venkateswaran
Vishal Ramani
Additional choreography by Nitya Venkateswaran MUSIC: Composition by Bharatiyar

Opening the 2005 Festival season, Nitya Venkateswaran begins with a puja, or invocation to Nataraja. Following is Shiva Shakti, in the rhythmically intricate and fast-paced Thanjavur style. The song uses verses from the legendary Indian poet, Bharatiyar, which evoke images of the Goddess Shakti, known in Hinduism as the Divine Feminine and the consort of Lord Shiva. Shakti is considered the embodiment of the energy behind all creation. She is omnipotent and mighty, yet compassionate and nurturing.

Paying homage to Shakti, the piece is both a glorification of her magnificence and a call to rise out of our malice to purify our hearts. The words exclaim: "Let us dance with frenzy at the sound of the grandeur of rhythm! Even in weary times she gives us inner strength to drive away the evils of sloth and ignorance. Let us dance in praise of Shakti."

Nitya choreographed special segments for the 2005 Festival, drawing upon the movement vocabulary and style of Bharatanatyam. These segments are a part of a new work in progress, which will be presented in its entirety in her upcoming performance season. This new work is supported by a Choreography Commission Award from the San Francisco Foundation.

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