South Indian Bharatanatyam
Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest dance forms of Southern India. Originating in ancient temples, Bharatanatyam has been handed down over generations. It is heavily integrated with Hindu mythology and draws much of its inspiration from Hindu texts and scriptures, portraying Hindu mythology and its gods and goddesses through storytelling and mime. The three main aspects of Bharatanatyam are: nritta (pure dance), nritya (a mixture of pure dance and interpretive dance), and natya (mime). Rhythm and footwork are a key part of the nritta aspect of Bharatanatyam. Abhinaya, or facial expression, complimented by stylized hand gestures, is the soul of Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam celebrates the human spirit and is not only limited to the portrayal of the Hindu pantheon, but can explore any issue that may arise in today’s world.
Viji Prakash has been dancing Bharatanatyam since she was 4 years old, and has continued practicing, performing, teaching, and choreographing it for over 40 years. She was formally trained by Guru Kalyanasundaram in the Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharata Natyam Kalamandir in Mumbai, India. Viji Prakash is the founder and artistic director of the Shakti Dance Company in Los Angeles.
In 2008, Viji Prakash was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with apprentice Kasi Aysola. The apprenticeship focused on developing Kasi’s solo repertoire suitable to his ability and physicality in the predominantly female-performed art form. Prakash also taught apprentice, Madhvi Venkatesh, in 2006, where she focused on the interpretive and dramatic aspects of the dance form (nritya) in this intense period of study.
Kasi Aysola's (right) 2008 apprenticeship with master artist Viji Prakash focused on developing Kasi’s solo repertoire suitable to his ability and physicality in the predominantly female-performed South Indian Bharatanatyam dance. Photo: Sherwood Chen