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ABHINAYA DANCE COMPANY OF SAN JOSE

Photo: Swagato B. Photography

PRESERVING TRADITION: MOVING FROM POLISHED PERFORMANCE TO HEADING A SCHOOL

T

he Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose performs Bharata Natyam, a popular South Indian classical dance. The dance originates from the Natya Shastra, a Hindu treatise on the performing arts. From this text a distinctive style of dance was developed during 200 CE in the Tamil Nadu region of India. The style showcases synchronized, expressive movements (abhinaya) by the dancers. Founder and artistic director Mythili Kumar had always wanted to present professional traditional dance productions to the public. On occasion, her audiences have been able to not only see Bharata Natyam, but also Abhinaya’s collaboration with other cultures, such as with Japanese taiko drummers and a Balinese gamelan ensemble, which bring other Asian traditions into a more modern mix. On April 3 at the School of Art and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, Abhinaya performed Remembering MS. This most recent production honors M.S. Subbulakshmi, a Carnatic vocalist and an important contributor to Bharata Natyam and other Asian music. Known in the dance world as M.S., she was the first woman and the first musician to receive the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor. Mythili graced the stage in India before bringing the art form to the US. Her award-winning choreography has won several awards from the National Endowment for the Arts. A recent

accolade was the 2015 Legacy Laureate Award from SVCreates for her dedication to dance. Mythili decided to open her own school in 1980 when Indian families began pleading with her to teach their daughters how to dance. She has also taught at universities, including San Jose State, Stanford, and UC Santa Cruz. There’s a saying: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Rasika Kumar, whose teacher and mother is Mythili, is also a performer and choreographer, and is the current associate artistic director of the company. Her choreography has been seen on several stages, including the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and West Wave Dance Festival. Like her mother, Rasika has garnered several achievements, including the Lakshmi Viswanathan Award from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (Chennai, India) for a solo performance. Another apple from Mythili’s tree is Malavika Kumar Walia, a senior dancer and choreographer for the company. In addition to teaching dance and developing choreography, she coaches dance students for their arangetram—their debut, onstage, solo performance. Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose boasts more than 130 graduates. Classes are offered in San Jose and Monte Sereno. The accomplished company has not only performed in the Bay Area, but has also traveled to other US cities, as well as to stages and competitions in India, where Bharata Natyam originated. abhinaya.org twitter: abhinayadanceco

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FEATURING: Day Trip to Santa Cruz, Ca | Illuminating Change | Artist, Emo Gonzales | HillStack Studio, Ron Hemphill & Tricia Stackle | SJSU...

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