Geometry is defined as “a branch of mathematics that deals with the measurement, properties, and relationships of points, lines, angles, surfaces, and solids.” Dance is defined as the rhythmic movement to music, usually following a sequence of steps. So, what do these two unlikely disciplines have in common?
Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance that dates back to 3rd century BC, has its roots in Hindu religious and spiritual practices. The dance combines the beauty, majesty, and spontaneity of dance performance art with the specificity and deliberateness of mathematics.
Audiences in San Antonio will have the unique privilege of seeing world-class dancers of this venerable art form at the Jo Long Theatre for the Performing Arts at the Carver Community Cultural Center on Sept. 15, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. with the presentation of Nadi: Love and Longing by Leela Samson and Spanda Dance Company.
For tickets, click here.
The group hails from San Antonio’s sister-city Chennai, India, and is being hosted by ARTS San Antonio in collaboration with ANUJA San Antonio, Arathi School of Indian Dance, Kalalaya Indian Performing Arts, Kaveri Natya Yoga, and Natyanjali.
An internationally-renowned dancer, teacher, writer, and choreographer, Leela Samson is an authority on Indian classical dance which is why Samson is providing local students an opportunity to participate in a three-day master class.
“When we heard Leela Samson was being invited by ARTS San Antonio, the four Indian Dance schools in San Antonio wanted the opportunity to learn from a renowned teacher,” explained Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, a senior guru at San Antonio’s Arathi School of Indian Dance and a board member of ARTS San Antonio. “All four Indian dance schools in San Antonio are participating. Saying that you took a class from Leela Samson is like saying you took a class by Alvin Ailey or at the Juilliard School. It is that prestigious.”
Beyond the prestige of a master class, Samson’s visit and the performance of Nadi: Love and Longing is an opportunity for the community to witness history, spirituality, music, story-telling, and the human body join forces to create a shared artistic experience. Bharatanatyam began in the temples of India as a means of devotion to the Gods. It survived banishment byBritish colonial rule in the early 1900s only to be expanded beyond Hindu temples to become a more mainstream dance form, fully revived in the late 20th century. The dance form maintains three characteristics, including a focus on deliberate, technical movements that must flow from one to the next in a fluid manner.
“Everything is very straight, so you have to take that into consideration when you are choreographing,” Ramamurthy explained. “You can’t go from one movement to another without connecting the two.”
This movement feeds directly into the second feature of Bharatanatyam, which focuses on emotion and storytelling. Dancers learn facial expressions and movements that represent critical emotions and feelings.
“The thing that sets Bharatanatyam apart from all other classical dances … is expression,” Ramamurthy said. “You have to emote. In fact, we have to train the students to depict nine emotions. It’s part of the syllabus. They have to tell stories.”
The third characteristic in this dance form is the depiction of a play. In the storytelling of the dance is a narrative that is woven together and acted out.
Through a variety of musical genres and languages in Nadi: Love and Longing, the Spanda Dance Company will present stories and poems inspired by the river, seeking to explore this life source and our human connection to it.
“I believe thinking about the flow of the river as the flow of life means they can take that in so many directions, so it will be exciting to see where it goes,” Ramamurthy said. “It is fascinating how quickly the uninitiated will click with the story.”
In discussing this dance form, Ramamurthy added that the color in the costumes and ornamentation along with the footwork and rhythm created by the dancers’ feet make this dance unique and engaging for the audience.
Spanda, which means pulse or vibration, is a symbolic term for the life force that runs through everything in the universe. On her website, Samson explains that “Spanda is a culmination of impressions, reactions, growth and an urge to express myself in a medium I know.”
The Spanda Dance Company aims to reflect this expansion of life force through the integration of dance, music, and theatre. “To be able to be exposed to such groups coming from all over the world is the main reason why I agreed to serve on the board of ARTS San Antonio,” Ramamurthy explained. “Its focus is really on taking the arts to communities and groups who would have no access to these kinds of artists otherwise.”