World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


PAMPA Dance Academy

Dance Origin: India
Creative Director/Choreographer:
Nirmala Madhava
First Appearance in SF EDF: 1996

Nirmala Madhava is Chief Choreographer at PAMPA Dance Academy. She earned a B.A. degree in Dance from Bangalore University and her choreography reflects extensive training in bharatanatyam and kathak dance, as well as her belief that Indian dance should evolve while maintaining its essence. She studied with the late Guru Lalitha Dorai, Guru Narmada, Vidwan Shri Gopinath Das, Guru Sri.Lakshmi Narayan Udupi, and Dr. Maya Rao in Bangalore.

PAMPA Dance Academy was established in California in 1992 by its president, Purna Prasad. The academy offers classes in Indian dance, vocal and instrumental music, and theoretical and practical performing arts. They take pivotal roles in highly acclaimed dance and dance-drama productions in the United States and Canada.


Title: Sankashta Ganapati
Dancers: Tejasvi Jaladi, Aishika Kumar, Nirmala Madhava, Saarini Madhava, Rema Menon, Manisha Murgude, Kamakshi Narasimhan, Indira Priyadarshini, Vaishnavi Sridhar, Roshni Verma, Pooja Vora
Alternate Dancers:
Shalini Bhakshi, Nehali Mehta, Lavanya Rao, Ashwini Srivatsan

Ganesh is the Hindu elephant-headed god. According to sacred Hindu texts, Lord Shiva's wife, Parvati, asked her son to guard her bath and let no one in. Angry, Shiva waged war against the boy. But Parvati's son repeatedly defeated Shiva's armies, at first single-handedly, and then with Kali's help, Shiva cut off the boy's head, and Parvati instructed the gods to bring the head of the first creature that crossed their path. So­–an elephant's head was attached to the boy's body. In light of the boy's courage, Shiva accepted the boy as his son, named him Ganesh, and appointed him commander of his guard.  

PAMPA’s dance is an invocation to Lord Ganesh. The setting is an ancient gurukula school, where more than 2,000 years ago, sages recited holy texts. The sacred hymn Ganapati Puja invokes the twelve names of Ganesh: PAMPA's dancers represent each holy name with its traditional bharatanatyam movement:

Ganesh, the refuge of his devotees /
the one with curved trunk /
the one with single tusk /
the one with fawn colored eyes /
, the one with the elephants' mouth /
, the pot-bellied one /
, the gigantic one /
, the king of obstacles, and the remover thereof /
, the smoke-colored one /
Balachandram, with crescent moon on his forehead /
Vinayaka, the great leader of Shiva's army /
Ganapati, the lord of Shiva's warriors /
Gajanana, the elephant-faced one

The music was created and recorded in Bangalore by Praveen D. Rao. Rao set rhythm cycles to recreate the ambience of an ancient gurukula and to reflect the intonation of Sanskrit hymns. His composition employs violins, cellos, tabla, mridanga, veena, sitar, sarangi, drums, and synthesizer. Nirmala Madhava's elegant costumes are based on ancient Vedic dress. The cloth is dyed with turmeric root, as saffron is the auspicious color of traditional temple dancers. The dancers’ ornaments are made from seeds of the holy basil plant.



dancersTITLE OF PIECE: Milan (Coming Together)
Nirmala Madhava
DANCERS: Ashwini Ayanam, Gowri Rao, Nirmala Madhava, and Mansi Shah

PAMPA's presentation juxtaposes two major classical dance forms of India–kathak from the North, and bharatanatyam from the South. While each classical Indian dance form has a story-telling tradition, the piece performed by PAMPA plays with the "pure-dance," or non-narrative aspects of each genre.

Milan, meaning, "coming together," displays both the similarities and the distinctions of these two great dance heritages. In each form there is a clear sense of the body's center as exacting arm gestures emanate out from the heart. Each use geometrically shaped designs, ornate hand gestures, detailed facial expressions and complex foot rhythms. Yet kathak maintains a more upright, stately body stance and emphasizes swift pirouettes and fluid, arabesque-like arm movements, whereas bharatanatyam employs a more stable, low-to-the-ground stance, more precise, angular arm gestures and codified hand positions. Playing with a musical cycle of 16-beats, which blends North and South Indian classical music, the dancers create a fusillade of foot rhythms with their bell-covered ankles.

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