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Sneha Chakradhar

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Arangetram, 1st October 2000

18 years ago on Ganesh Chaturthi, I presented my Arangetram (debut performance)under Kalaimamani Lt. Guru K.N. Dakshinamurthy, and his youngest daughter Veenu Dakshinamurthy. Looking back now, I was so fortunate to receive the blessings of such stalwarts, who lovingly came to grace the occasion. Former President of India Lt. Shri R. Venkataraman, eminent poet and politician Lt. Shri Balkavi Bairagi and legendary sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Sahab were the guests of honour, who were joined by a houseful of artists, poets, friends and family in showering this young lady, making her humble entry into the world of Indian classical dance, with all their love and appreciation. It was one of the biggest events of my life and I’m sharing these moments with a lot of gratitude to all those who have been a part of this beautiful journey with me… especially my parents Ashok and Bageshri Chakradhar. 

 

28th Raindrops Festival of Indian Classical Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was an absolutely delightful experience to be a part of the Raindrops Festival this year, curated with a lot of love and passion by veteran Kathak dancer Smt. Uma Dogra and her Samved Society for Performing Arts.  I was invited to perform on the opening day of this two day festival held on the 14th & 15th of July, 2018 at Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi, Mumbai

 

In her review of my performance in The Statesman, critic Manjari Sinha writes, “Sneha Chakradhar, a dedicated disciple of Kalaimamani Guru K N Dakshinamurthy and Guru Geeta Chandran, fascinated the audience with her absorbing stage presence, chiseled Angashuddhi and consummate Abhinaya during her Bharatanatyam recital Shiva-Darshan, right from the invocatory Rudrashtakam to the rare Ninda-Stuti for Shiva- “Idai kandani…”, a Tamil song translated into Hindi by her poet father Ashok Chakradhar, “Toone usme kya dekha jo dil de baithi…?” where a sarcastic Maina (Parvati’s mother), describing the attributes of Shiva in a negative way, questions her daughter: “What did you see in that fellow that you fell so passionately in love with him?” Sneha received thunderous applause when she concluded with scintillating Rageshri Thillana.”

The review of the entire festival can be read here

Chandra Anand, another critic reviewed the festival on narthaki.com, which can be read here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senior artist Subodh Poddar present in the audience, made the experience even more precious by creating line-drawings as I danced on stage. He posted the following images on Facebook with this comment: “She danced like a sculpture crafted out of Bronze from the Cholas. I saw Bharatnatyam this evening that was not only geometrically perfect. It was amazing with human errors that made Sneha’s dance soft and supple. Powerful at the required places. Well balanced Bharatnatyam at the Raindrops dance festival that started today.”

 

Parichay

A hot Sunday morning spent in the cool basement studio of Kathak dancer Swati Sinha in Gurugram, inviting a group of curious minds into the world of Bharatanatyam.

In an attempt to make the classical arts more accessible to people with a stressful, urban lifestyle, Swati has begun this series titled ‘Parichay’, where she invites classical dancers to present lecture-demonstrations introducing their dance forms. The audience is mostly those who live in the neighbourhood and usually never get the time or the opportunity to go to central Delhi to attend dance performances. The purpose is to educate people about the classical arts and hopefully convert them into future audiences.  

On the 17th of June, 2018, I was invited to share my journey with an enthusiastic group of people, many of whom were already well initiated into the arts. I spoke about the history of Bharatanatyam and performed some traditional compositions from the repertoire, finally introducing them to my recent works on contemporary Hindi poetry. I was assisted by Shivapriya and  Jashasmita, two young disciples of Smt. Geeta Chandran. The intimate setting of the basement allowed for the audiences to engage with me and enjoy the abhinaya from close quarters.  The session was very interactive with a lot of dialogue and discussion. A great initiative indeed by Swati Sinha!

‘Ashta Nayika’ for World Dance Day 2018

To celebrate World Dance Day, Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur organised an evening of Indian classical dance on April 29, 2018, inviting three dancers representing the Kathak, Odissi and Bharatanatyam styles of dance to conceptualise an evening showcasing the various nayikas or heroines based on Natyashastra. Rashmi Uppal, Lipsa Sathpaty and I presented traditional compositions in Kathak, Odissi and Bharatanatyam respectively for this evening titled ‘Ashta Naayika’ 

I performed a varnam depicting the virahotkanthita nayika in the Bharatanatyam style. This nayika is distressed at her lover’s absence and suffers the pangs of separation, yearning for reunion. Due to the non-arrival of her lover, she openly demonstrates her distress, exhaustion and discontent. She is anxious, disheartened and restless, but, she does not doubt her lover and usually thinks of various reasons because of which he may have been unduly delayed.

The Varnam is the centre piece of Bharatanatyam that brings alive the various aspects of the dance form: abhinaya, raga-bhava, tala and sanchari-improvisation. Varnam means different shades of colour and is the most elaborate presentation that showcases the best in both nritta or pure dance and abhinaya or narrative interpretation. The format of varnam provides a platform to explore layers of emotions, a variety of situations and vivid images and it presents an array of challenging dance patterns. The varnam that I presented was in Ragam Poorvi Kalyani set to Adi talam (a cycle of eight beats) penned and musically composed by the legendary Bharatanatyam Guru Shri. K.N. Dandayudhapani Pillai and taught to me by my guru Smt. Geeta Chandran. Essaying Bhakti-Shringar, the virahotkanthita nayika in the Varnam beseeches her sakhi, and pleads with her to fetch her lord Kumaraswamy (Kartikeya) to her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance received great media coverage in the local news papers

 

 

Khajuraho Nritya Samaroh 2018

Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Madhya Pradesh, known for its 1000 year old temple monuments is a host to one of the oldest and most prestigious classical dance festivals in India. The week-long Khajuraho Nritya Samaroh features young and senior artists presenting solo works, as well as group choreographies. I had the honour of presenting a solo Bharatanatyam recital at the festival on the 25th of February, 2018. I closely worked under my Guru Smt. Geeta Chandran and performed traditional compositions in the Bharatanatyam style.

The following is the review of my performance by senior critic Dr. Sunil Kothari:

http://www.narthaki.com/info/gtsk/gtsk176.html

“From Delhi, daughter of poet Ashok Chakradhar, Sneha Chakradhar presented her polished Bharatanatyam performance with live orchestra. Trained for more than 20 years under Geeta Chandran, she is a regular performer in Natya Vriksha productions. She has obtained PhD in Dance and is a regular performer with considerable experience. The opening verses in praise of Lord Shiva, Tirumoolar mantram, saw Sneha worshiping the all pervading god. Descending from the upper level and covering the stage she conveyed the essence of the mantra. The dovetailing of Natanam Adinar in raga Vasanta offered choreographer Geeta Chandran chance to explore the various attributes of Lord Shiva. Interspersed with jathis that enhanced the brilliance of movements, Sneha did full justice to the nritta aspect as well as to abhinaya. Dancing in the golden Hall of Chidambaram temple, bringing out the glory of dance of Nataraja, Sneha was in her element. The dance shook eight directions and even Shesha naga who balances the earth found it difficult to maintain balance. The Ananda Tandava of Lord Shiva astounds his devotees. The entire performance was a joyous rendition. Set to Mand raga, Meerabai’s popular bhajan Mane chakar rakhoji, struck rapport with the audience. Geeta Chandran’s choreography of how devotee would serve the lord was crafted in detail, and created the garden that devotee would carefully look after, all rendered pleasantly. The stanza adhi raat ko darshan dijo, even in the midnight devotee sings with joy the god would give her darshan and that too on the bank of Jamuna. The response from the audience was heartening.

Tillana in Lalgudi G Jayaraman’s Rageshri with its musical intricacies and tala, the silences between phrases, was the highlight of the performance. The various patterns and the lovely diagonal stretched arms and architectonic beauty of the form were a delight to watch. The periya adavus covering the stage explored the space beautifully. The teamwork of musicians led by Geeta Chandran on nattuvangam was of their customary finesse with K. Venkateswaran on vocal, Manohar Balatchandirane on mridangam and Ravinder Rajput on flute.”

Hampi Utsav 2017

Dancers dream of performing at sites like Hampi and Khajuraho and in a span of four months, I got the opportunity to perform at both these majestic temple complexes. Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located about 380km from Bangalore in Karnataka. It is a group of monuments mostly built around the 14th century AD as a part of the Vijayanagara empire, on the banks of the Tungabhadra river. The Hampi festival each year, invites and presents artists from all over India to perform and celebrates the beauty and magnificence of this site.

Natya Vriksha Dance Company was invited to perform at ‘Hampi Utsav’ held in November 2017 by the Government of Karnataka, in collaboration with the Prasiddha Foundation. We were all thrilled to be visiting Hampi and dancing at a site which was once the most prosperous and glorious cities of India. The multiple performances during the three day festival were simultaneously taking place on over 10 stages built in different temple complexes spread all over Hampi. It was not easy for audiences to commute from one stage to the other, leading to many artists being disappointed with the poor turn out at their venues. The stages built around the Virupaksha temple had the maximum concentration of audiences, simply because Virupaksha is an active temple and this was the spot where they had shopping and food stalls.

We performed at the beautiful monument of Hazara Rama Temple, built in the early 15th century. Since it was situated about a couple of kilometers from Virupaksha temple, we were essentially dancing for ourselves, celebrating the antiquity and ubiquity of Indian dance, architecture and ritual. Along with taking our dance to new audiences (even though few in number), performances like these give us an opportunity to witness and learn about the history, architecture, art and aesthetics of our ancient civilization and place our contemporary culture in a historical perspective.

Natya Vriksha in Chile, South America

In October 2017, I got the opportunity to travel with my guru Smt. Geeta Chandran and the Natya Vriksha Dance Company to travel to Chile, South America to celebrate the 70th year of Indian independence through Bharatanatyam under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and Indian Council for Cultural relations (ICCR).

We presented choreographies in Bharatanatyam in Santiago de Chile and San Antonio and conducted a workshop for dance students at the university in Santiago. Both the performances were very well received by the Chilean audiences, who showered us with their kind words of appreciation and standing ovations. The natural beauty, the colourful graffiti and the vibrant culture of Chile will remain forever in our hearts.

Photo Credit: Mr. Shammi Arora, Indian Embassy, Chile

 

 

TuMeKam: Tulsi, Meera and Kabir in Bharatanatyam

Kala Kunj and Jaijaivanti Foundation presented an evening of Kathak and Bharatanatyam on the 6th of September, 2017 at the Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, new Delhi. Culture Minister, Dr. Mahesh Sharma graced the occasion with his presence as the chief guest of the evening.

Ms. Richa Jain, daughter and disciple of Lt. Guru Ravi Jain and Smt. Nalini Jain will presented the interpretative and technical aspects drawing from both the Lucknow and Jaipur gharanas of Kathak. In this unique presentation titled Shyam Rang Raachi”, Richa portrayed the Krishna and Narasimha avatars of Vishnu through the traditional form of Katha Vaachan.

InTumekam“, I embarked upon a spiritual journey of self realisation through the works of Tulsidas, Meerabai and Kabir.

My performance started with a Pushpanjali composed by Vasudevan Iyengar and choreographed by my guru Smt. Geeta Chandran. This was followed by ‘Rudrashtakam’, an octet composed by Tulsidas as an ode to ‘Rudra’, the fearsome manifestation of Lord Shiva, composed by K. Venkateshwaran. In this hymn the devotee describes and praises the many facets of Shiva. He is the lord of the universe, the embodiment of Nirvana. He is formless, desireless, immeasurable, yet omnipresent. The moon is his ornament and he radiates the glory of a million suns. The Ganges flowing out of his matted locks, adorned in tiger skin and garlands of snakes and skulls, he is the destroyer of death. “Oh supreme Lord, the divine consort of Parvati! You are my saviour.”

Next I presented a Meera bhajan composed in Ragam Kalyan by Shri Vinay Chandra Maudgalya and choreographed by Smt. Geeta Chandran. Meerabai dedicated her life to lord Krishna. Her life was an eternal search for her lord, as he was the only one she desired. In this popular bhajan ‘Koi kahiyo re‘ she is eagerly waiting to hear about the arrival of Krishna and requesting everyone and everything around her, the people, the birds, the wind and the clouds to go to her lord and bring him to her.

My TuMeKam journey concluded with the soul stirring poetry of Kabir. For Tulsidas, Shiva was the one. For Meera, it was Krishna. But Kabir says whatever it is that you are looking for is within you… You are the one: Tumekam! Kabir attempts to show a mirror to society divided on religion, caste, creed, colour… and challenges us to find peace and goodness inside us, rather than seeking external validation in religious beliefs and meaningless rituals.

The very popular poem by Kabir “Moko kahan dhoondhe re bande” was composed in raag Bhatiyaar by Sudha Raghuraman and I choreographed this poem under the direction of my guru.

The artists accompanying me were:

Smt. Geeta Chandran on nattuvangam, Smt. Sudha Raghuraman on vocals, Shri G. Raghuraman on flute and Shri Manohar Balachandarine on mridangam. The evening was anchored by my father, Prof. Ashok Chakradhar.

Photo credits: Ashwini Chopra, Inni Singh and Bharat Tiwari


 

 

Umang Tarang: A US Tour of Dance and Poetry

An idea came to life in the month of April, 2017, in five cities of the United States of America; a vision of bringing together poetry and dance on the same stage. Poetry has always been an integral part of the Indian classical dance forms, but what was unique about this presentation was the fact that the dance form was Bharatanatyam and the poetry was in Hindustani.

The oral tradition of poetry is a unique feature of India. The historical institution of poetry recitals known as ‘kavisammelans’, have witnessed great poets in the past centuries. Prof. Ashok Chakradhar is one of the most illustrious poets of our times belonging to that tradition. His fame goes far beyond the borders of India and Hindi speakers all over the world are familiar with his literary work and his distinctive poetic style. His daughter, Dr. Sneha Chakradhar is an established Bharatanatyam dancer based in New Delhi. A disciple of (Padmashri) Smt. Geeta Chandran, she has travelled extensively with her dance and performed at prestigious spaces in India and abroad.

The nine classical dance forms of India are like the cultural ambassadors, representing the ethos of the State they belong to. The diversity among the arts in India is beyond imagination. The vast Indian literature and the collective knowledge of common narratives, unite these dance forms and present them with a sense of shared identity. The dance styles rely heavily on text to be able to narrate stories and thus, the purpose of devising this entire presentation has been to reinstate the significance of the written word in dance.

Shri Anoop Bhargava, a well-known Hindi poet and litterateur based in New Jersey, USA collaborated with Prof. Ashok Chakradhar and Dr. Sneha Chakradhar in conceptualizing this amalgamation of poetry and dance in a presentation bringing together literature, melody and movement on stage. His organization ‘Jhilmil USA’ teamed up with Prof. Chakradhar’s ‘Jaijaivanti Foundation’, New Delhi and he worked tirelessly to bring the Indian artists to present their art to the American audiences. Several organisations and individuals working for the promotion of Hindi in different cities of the US joined the mission and took on the organizational responsibilities in their respective cities.

Shri Abhinav Shukla, a popular poet based in the US, joined the father-daughter duo and the team together performed in five cities of the US. The first two performances in New York and New Jersey, witnessed an unexpected turn out of Hindi lovers. These shows were presented in collaboration with Indian Festivals Association, along with Zee TV and Asia TV as the media partners. The audiences got the opportunity to experience the range and scope of Prof. Chakradhar’s poetry, his poignant, social commentary garnished and served with humour and satire.  These days, what takes place in the name of ‘hasya kavisammelan’ is almost deplorable. Sexist jokes, popular social media quotes and rampant plagiarism have become the norm and the audiences are forced to accept these due to a severe dearth of talent and a lack of exposure. This was a rare occasion which allowed them to witness the true flavor of the oral tradition of kavisammelan, with original poems, meaningful satire and pleasant humour.

The audiences also thoroughly enjoyed and highly appreciated the interpretation of Hindustani poetry exploring works of Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Meerabai and Ashok Chakradhar, presented through the Indian classical style of Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam is a very popular dance form in the US among the NRI community. There are innumerable dance schools all over the country and ‘Arangetram’ (Bharatanatyam debut) performances are frequently attended. Giving their valuable feedback, however, many audience members shared how it was for the very first time that they actually related with the dance compositions. Bharatanatyam is traditionally performed in the south Indian languages of Tamil and Telugu. This experiment of interpreting Hindi poetry through Bharatanatyam certainly helped in expanding the horizons of the art form and reaching out to newer audiences.

The success of the east coast set the ball rolling and the team travelled to the west coast presenting back-to-back shows in San Jose, Seattle and Portland. The members of ‘Akhil Vishwa Hindi Jyoti’ (San Jose), ‘Utsav’ (Seattle) and ‘Hindi Sangam’ (Portland) were commendable hosts and experienced organisers. This unique event, bringing together the performing arts traditions of India’s north and south, fascinated and enthralled the audiences. This successful venture has hopefully introduced its audiences to new ways of appreciating the arts and is certainly a step in the right direction for promoting Hindi in the USA.

 

An Interview with Sneha Chakradhar

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7.6.16 HT South Delhi SC

 

About

Dr. Sneha Chakradhar is a Bharatanatyam dancer based in New Delhi, India. She has been pursuing the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam since the age of nine and has trained under acclaimed gurus. Sneha regularly performs across India and the world. She has recently performed in Chile, USA, Indonesia, Thailand, and at the Khajuraho Dance Festival in India.