Bharatanatyam Meets Ballet “Ritu” – Experimenting with Indian and Western Dance Styles


By Sesh Bala

HOUSTON: On October 19, at the Jewish Community Center Kaplan Theater in Houston, a collaborative production blending Western ballet and South Indian classical Bharatanatyam was staged to a packed auditorium.

“Ritu” depicted one woman’s emotional journey through the seasons. Dancer-choreographer Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan (Founder/Artistic Director, Silambam Houston) conceived and scripted the production, in collaboration with Joyce Beck (Director, Dancescape), aptly picking Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan’s “Ritu Raaga” and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” as the framework musical pieces.

One wondered how such a blend would be accomplished. Would ballerinas pirouette into a jatiswaram? Would a Bharatanatyam alarippu glide into some allegro? “Ritu” was none of these. It showcased both styles woven together depicting Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, reemerging into Spring, with distinct emotions and moods. The dancers retained the purity of their respective styles, with subtle, gentle journeys into each other’s styles, and additional sprinkles of folk, jazz, and raas.  Lavanya herself performed beautifully expressive solo Bharatanatyam pieces, fully capturing the emotions of each season. The concluding Thillana was a very creative blend of both styles. The music, which also included pieces from Hamsadhwani Fusion Band, Dr. Balamurali Krishna, Swathi Thirunal, Kshetrayya and Subrahmanya Bharathi, was excellent, as also the lighting to match the two styles.

A blend of another kind will surely emerge in time. The ballet group reflected the diversity in Houston, with children from diverse backgrounds. Bharatanatyam, however, holds appeal principally for children of Indian origin. Such programs are a step in the right direction for enhancing interest in different art forms among children.

The young dancers and their teacher/choreographers Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan and Ms. Joyce Beck deserve rich congratulations on visualizing, producing and staging this successful experimental production.