Seeking a Renaissance in San Francisco
On September 11, 2010, Priyanjali Dance performed a production of “Navarasas” at CounterPULSE studio in San Francisco, CA. The performance was in benefit of the charity, Artists for World Peace. Below are the bios of the dancers. The post was created for the CounterPULSE blog on 8/27/2010 by Priyanjali’s Artistic Director, Priya Ravindhran.
Priyanjali Dancers Performing on 9/11
By Priya Ravindhran
Bharata Natyam, an age-old art form from India, graces the CounterPULSE stage in September. Paying a tribute in memory of the victims world wide of 9/11, Priyanjali Dance will celebrate life using colorful traditional pieces and contemporary work titled Navarasas. Through these Navarasas (nine emotions), the dancers hope to share and explore the human condition.
Priyanjali Dance, a San Francisco-based dance company, will consist of seven dancers from varying levels, backgrounds and teachers. All dancers continue working together in San Francisco under the umbrella of Priyanjali Dance Company.
Meet our dancers:
Priya Ravindhran, Artistic Director of Priyanjali Dance
Priya Ravindhran began learning Bharata Natyam with her sister, Subha, from the age of 5 from various teachers across the US: Asha Gopal, Jyothi Raghavan, and Bana Ramanath to name a few. She was exposed to the Dhananjayans and the gurukulam method of teaching through her teacher, Bana Ramanath, who also conducted her arangetram in 1993. In 1994, Priya joined Kala Vandana Dance Center in San Jose, California as a company dancer and teacher, under the artistic direction of Sundara Swaminathan. Since her arangetram, Priya has spent several summers at Bharata Kalanjali, the Dhananjayan’s school in Chennai, India to train intensively, including 6 months post college.
Priya is no stranger to performance. Having performed in several company productions, Priya gave several full-length recitals both in the US and India – touring the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Tuscon, Dallas, San Antonio, and Chennai. She has participated in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival 3 times in 1995-1997. Priya has introduced her original choreography in her self-produced recitals: Anubhava, Environmental Consciousness, and the upcoming Navarasas for World Peace.
Priya began Priyanjali Dance School in early 2007 to provide opportunity for dancers looking to keep up with their training as well as introduce Bharata Natyam to beginners and the young professional community in San Francisco. In 2010, Priya received her first grant from the Zellerbach Family Foundation. Through her affiliation with Dancers Group, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that supports the dance community, and other various organizations in San Francisco, Priya continues to seek out opportunities to use Bharata Natyam as a vehicle to talk about everyday events. Priya’s dedication to this art inspires her to keep the ancient dance form traditional while applying a thematic context that is contemporary yet timeless. She is grateful to all her teachers, and through their blessings, she continues performing and teaching.
Subha Chudgar, Company Dancer
Subha Chudgar began learning Bharata Natyam with her sister, Priya, at a very young age from Asha Gopal, Jyothi Raghavan, and Bana Ramanath. She was exposed to the Dhananjayans and the gurukulam method of teaching through her teacher, Bana Ramanath, who also conducted her arangetram in 1993. In 1994, Subha joined Kala Vandana Dance Center in San Jose, California as a company dancer and teacher, under the artistic direction of Sundara Swaminathan.
Subha has spent many years cultivating her artisitc talents by summer long visits to Bharata Kalanjali in Chennai, India. Additionally, she has given full-length rectals touring the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Tuscon, Dallas, San Antonio, and Chennai.
Subha has performed in several company performances with Kala Vandana Dance Company, including the San Francisco Ethnic Dance festival 1995-1997. Subha has performed in several Priyanjali Dance Productions and has co-choreographed the production, “Environmental Conciousness.” Most recently, Subha also participates in Shakti Dance Company productions under the artistic direction of Viji Prakash in Los Angeles.
Usha Desiraju, Student & Company Dancer
Usha Desiraju began learning Bharata Natyam early in her youth under the guidance of Asha Gopal in Phoenix, Arizona. Her dedication to the art ramped up her training within a few years to complete her arangetram in 1999. She has participated in numerous productions in Arizona before and after her arangetram.
Usha moved to the Bay Area and joined Mythili Kumar’s Dance School, Abhinaya School of Dance, and has participated in productions in the South Bay Area.
Usha joined the Priyanjali Dance in San Francisco to expand her repertoire and training. Since 2007, Usha has performed in several Priyanjali Dance events and productions including Durga Puja at the Livermore Temple 2007, Arts for Literacy in 2009, and Vijay Dhashmi 2009.
Vidya Sundaram, Company Dancer
Vidya Sundaram has been dancing since she was a little girl growing up in the east bay. She is extremely grateful for the support of her gurus, KP and Katherine Kunhiraman, who conducted her arangetram in 1994. She has since taught at Kala Vandana Dance Center, under the artistic direction of Sundara Swaminathan, and recently received advanced training from KP Yesodha in Chennai, India.
Vidya has performed in several solo and group productions both in the Bay Area and India. Vidya has also participated in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival in 1997. Most recently, Vidya produced and choreographed a solo performance in tribute to Shri G.N. Balasubramaniam in July 2010. She continues to expand her technique training and repertoire at Priyanjali Dance.
In addition to dancing, Vidya enjoys acting on stage and in film and currently serves on the board of directors for CounterPULSE.
Shruti Iyer, Student
Shruti began learning Bharata Natyam in Houston, Texas under the guidance of Rathna Kumar from the ages of 7 to 9. She has since re-started her training with the Priyanjali Dance School in Spring 2009. Shruti is incredibly dedicated to Indian art forms, and spends time learning not just the technique, but the history and theory as well. She most recently performed at a concert for Vijay Dhashmi in 2009.
In addition to Bharata Natyam, Shruti trains at Pandit Chitresh Das’ Chhandam School of Kathak, based in San Francisco. She is also a classically trained Carnatic (South Indian Classical) violinist. She trained under Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan and Vittal Ramamurthy, disciples of veteran violinist, Lalgudi Sri G. Jayaraman. Shruti has performed as a solo violinist and as an accompanist, including performing in orchestras for Bharata Natyam productions.
Aishwarya Venkatesan, Student
Aishwarya Venkatesan is new to Bharata Natyam. She has been with Priyanjali Dance School since spring of 2009, under the tutelage of Priya Ravindhran. Since then Aishwarya has participated in National Dance Week 2009. She most recently performed at a concert for Vijay Dhashmi 2009.
Aishwarya’s interests in Indian Classical arts include the Veena, a musical instrument, which she learnt to play from her mother, Chitra Venkatesan.
Aishwarya has been an avid dance student all her life, and has enjoyed exploring other dance forms such as Jazz and Hip Hop.
Nidhi Solanki began learning Bharata Natyam at a young age of six and practiced this art form for 11 years at Kala Vanadana Dance Center and Natyanjali School of Dance in the Bay Area.
Nidhi has performed in several group productions. After a 3 year hiatus when Nidhi was in Germany to continue her education, she recently joined Priyanjali Dance School and Company to expand her training and repertoire.
Nidhi is also currently learning Sitar under the guidance of Ustad Surinder Mann in Sunnyvale.