Friday Spotlight – Natya

Natya is the University of Washington’s premiere Indian classical dance team completely student led from choreography to performanceEach dancer brings her own classical dance training to the team and they all add unique twists to traditional Indian classical dances by choreographing pieces to not only classical music but also contemporary instrumental music and Bollywood music.  Here’s a little bit more about our new competitor:

1. How did your group form?
The members of Natya have been individually trained anywhere from 8 to 15 years in various Indian classical dance styles. We realized that the University of Washington lacked a dance team that featured classical Indian dancing. With this in mind, 7 dancers formed Natya in 2009 in an effort to spread the knowledge of Indian classical dance and culture and to continue doing what we loved best!

2. How did your group come up with its name?
Natya means “dance” in the South Indian language of Tamil. The dance style that is most prominent in our pieces is called Bharatanatyam and originates from the state of Tamilnadu where Tamil is spoken.

3. Who or what are your major influences and inspirations?

One of Natya’s goals is to make Indian classical dance accessible and loved by a variety of audiences. We hope to make our dancing universal and we do so by drawing inspiration from contemporary and instrumental music. However, we also stay true to our roots and are greatly influenced by major Hindu mythological stories. At Natya’s annual showcase, we return to the classical elements of Bharatnatyam and present to the audience some traditional pieces that showcase a particular Hindu deity.

4. How would you describe your dance style? What makes it special?

Our influence comes from the dance style of Bharatanatyam which is a 1000-year old ancient temple dance art form originating from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. As first generation Indian immigrants in the United States, all of the team members have been greatly influenced by both the Indian and American cultures. Using these experiences as influence as well as the interest to prove that Indian classical dance is an energetic and upbeat dance style, Natya combines elements of the American culture through contemporary music with our Indian dance moves.

5. What does Kollaboration’s mission, “Empowerment through Entertainment” mean to you?

As mentioned previously, Natya approaches dance as a universal medium in which the community can be engaged and entertained. We use Bhartanatyam as a vehicle to represent the Indian culture as well as showcase our backgrounds as American born Indians. We want to inspire and empower others through our art form.

6. Do you have any funny, inspiring, or interesting stories to share about your musical journey?

This year we performed at Northwest Folklife in May. Unfortunately, during the performance due to technical difficulties the music stopped playing during our dance. Rather than simply leaving the stage, we proceeded to sing/vocalize the rhythmic patterns while dancing at the same time (a very difficult task)! We thought it better to persevere through the tough situation and show the audience what Natya had to offer. Our team is capable of adapting to any situation and give a stunning performance at the same time!

6. What’s your hidden talent(s)?

Saloni: imitating a meerkat!
Jahnavi: Even though she is the shortest on the team, she manages to move further than any other dancer while dancing.
Mercy: Singing while dancing…pretty awesome!
Akanksha: Has never actually been trained in Bharatnatyam (is trained in another classical style instead) but still performs Bharatnatyam with the team! Karthika: excellent at baking cup-cakes!
Renuka: Dominant knee-hockey goalie
Sruthi: Never getting bored of Pinterest.

7. What is your goal as an artist?

We would love to perform on Broadway Participate in an International Dance competition and hope to inspire others to take up a form of self-expression.

8. If you won the lottery, what would you do?

If we were to win the lottery, Natya members would love to open up our own dance studio and possibly do some teaching as well!

9. If you could perform with anyone, who would it be with?

A musical legend in India (and now gaining popularity worldwide) is A.R.Rahman. His approach to music is very similar to our approach to dance – catering to the generation and audience that we are performing for. His music has always touched us and a song of his that we used is one our favorites. The song, Raaga’s Dance, featuring A.R. Rahman and violinist Vanessa Mae, beautifully brings together two very different musical styles (classical Indian and Western) to create a stunning and moving item. If given the chance, it would be an absolute honor to perform with his music live on stage.

10. Favorite hidden place to eat in the Pacific Northwest?

Seattle Deli Vietnamese sandwiches (to be specific Saigon Deli), any Pho restaurant, Saffron Grill, Tea Republic, Tamarind Tree, and Szechuan Noodle Bowl!

11. What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to food, something you never deny passing when offered?

Karthika: Anything sweet – warm cookies, brownies, candy, chocolate.
Mercy: Chips (Lays original or salt and vinegar), anything fried as well.
Saloni: Yea’s wok chicken chow mein, Ezelle’s fried chicken, and fro yo!
Akanksha: Chicken, Crab, any type of noodles, and Tea!!
Sruthi: Pepperidge Farm’s Mint Milanos and dark chocolate
Renuka: Dumplings, hot steaming bowls of pho, Mac and vegan cheese, strawberries, and anything with chocolate
Jahnavi: Dosa

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