World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival

Lasya dancers


Lasya Dance Company

NATIONAL/ETHNIC IDENTITY: South Indian Classical - bharatanatyam
Vidhya Subramanian
First Appearance in SF EDF:

The classical dance form of South India, bharatanatyam has roots extending back to the fifth century as evidenced by ancient sculptures found on temple walls. Considered a divine art, the dance was used as a sacred offering. Through the dance, the dancer's identity is dissolved in rhythm and music and becomes an instrument of the soul. The present day form of bharatanatyam however, garners its thematic and musical content from the royal courts of 18th and 19th century Tamil Nadu the most southeastern state of India.

Artistic Director of Lasya, Vidhya Subramanian learned the dance in the traditional form from Guru S.K. Rajaratnam and Kalanidhi Narayanan in India for 15 years, and studied specific stylistic attributes from Padma Subrahmanyan for 3 years. She started teaching in 1990 in the Bay Area, and founded Lasya Dance Company in 1998.


Vidhya Subramanian
Madhavi Cheruvu, Chethana Chidambara, Priya Das, Janani Narayanan, Ramya Parthasarathy, Vidhya Subramanian, and Adeeti Ullal

Lasya Dance Company offers a thillana, a piece blending pure dance and narrative dance which celebrates rhythm and life. The piece is based on a legend similar to the biblical David and Goliath story. Here, the Lord Krishna in the guise of a cowherd boy plays ball on the banks of the sacred Yamuna River. When his ball drops into the river the evil ten-headed giant serpent Kaliya surfaces. A great fight begins. The music was composed in the 18th century. The lyrics of the song, which is sung in Sanskrit, describe scenes from this battle and how Krishna emerges triumphantly dancing on the hood of the snake thus freeing the waters of the river from the snake's poison.

The costumes, made of vibrantly colored silk, are stylized versions of the 18th century court dress. Makeup must be carefully crafted onto the face in order to enhance the dancer's narrative expressions. Heavy ankle bells are worn to emphasize the footwork.

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