Natya Dance Theatre performs world premiere at Columbia’s Dance Center


Courtesy Natya Dance Theatre

The Natya Dance Theatre is a critically acclaimed Indian dance company that focuses on the Bharata Natyam style of dance.

By Campus Reporter

The Natya Dance Theatre, a critically acclaimed Indian dance company, premiered its latest work, “Varna – Colors of White,” Oct. 22 at Columbia’s Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave., as part of the Dance Center’s 2015–2016 season. 

Natya Dance Theatre, founded in Chicago in 1974, focuses on the traditional Bharata Natyam style of dance, according to its website, which also said the performance was part of the company’s 40-year anniversary celebration. 

“Varna – Colors of White” is divided into four sections: “Ardhanari,” “Prapancham: The Universe of Colors,” “Sita In Reflection” and “Mara,” with each telling a different part of an overarching story.

In each section, dancers—accompanied by live musicians—portray different stories and concepts from Hindu mythology varying from the broader concepts of feminine versus masculine to more specific ones like the story of Sita, a character in the Hindu epic poem “Ramayana.” 

“What we showed today is a good mixture and highlights where we are right now and how we have progressed with this dance form,” said Vinay Srinivasan, a senior dancer with Natya Dance Theatre who has studied with them for almost 20 years. 

By joining the contemporary and traditional styles, Krithika Rajagopalan, associate artistic director and principal dancer in the company, said she hopes to draw more interest in the Bharata Natyam style and Indian dance in general.

“People get really scared of Indian classical dance because they think they are going to get bored or they are going to not understand,” Rajagopalan said. “You may see [us perform] a classical, traditional show, but we connect it to what is relevant in today’s world.” 

Rajagopalan said Natya Dance Theatre decided to use the college’s Dance Center because was a good fit for “Varna – Colors of White.” 

“The Dance Center not only brings in the classical, the traditional, the spiritual, the nouveau, the daring and the gimmick—they bring in quality,” Rajagopalan said. “[The Dance Center] is intimate. It is technically flawless. It is an organization striving to bring the essence of each form’s technique in its ultimate quality to the space and make it understood or at least accessible.”

Srinivasan said performing at the Dance Center was a great experience, especially because they were performing Bharata Natyam .

“[The Dance Center] almost seems too perfect for Bharata Natyam,” Srinivasan said. “Sometimes with the larger stages the audience can be too far and because of the expressions and storytelling we do, I think it is amazing.”

Students from the college’s Dance Department, including Misha Woodward, a sophomore dance major,  attended the event to learn more about the Bharata Natyam style of dance and to see the company perform.

Woodward said she was familiar with the Natya Dance Company before attending the event. 

“I studied Bharata Natyam [in class],” Woodward said. “This was the company I focused on. I have been learning about the dance and trying to take lessons in it. It is something I feel very  passionate about.”