Radhika Rao of Tandavam Events discusses Indian classical dance and “Trilochana”

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If you are not from the greater Indian subcontinent or have no Indian friends, you could be forgiven for not knowing that there is a healthy culture of Indian classical dance in the DMV, largely in Fairfax County.

The dancer Sumi Rao. Photo by Siva Photography.

With the aim of making the inhabitants of the region aware of the wealth of talents and knowledge of this region, Radhika Rao is committed to raising public awareness of the beauty and complexity of Indian dance. Rao and his eldest daughter, Kaavya, run an organization called Tandavam Events, which does everything from helping people find the right dance school for their children to helping them prepare for the all-important “Arangetram” or debut of dance, which marks the point where a dancer is ready to meet the audience after years of preparation.

Since Arangetram involves renting a hall, sending out invitations, planning a dinner party, hiring an orchestra, hiring an expert to manage the lighting and preparing outfits and makeup, Rao rightly compares it to planning a wedding.

Read on to learn more from Rao on Indian Classical Dance and the upcoming Tandavam Events event featuring three local Indian dance schools.

Barbara Mackay: How many Indian dance schools do you estimate? Virginia?

Radhika Rao: Probably twelve to fifteen.

And how many students are there in each?

About a hundred.

Are they very young when they start classes?

They start in the first or second year and go on to high school.

The dancer Sumi Rao.  Photo by Siva Photography.
The dancer Sumi Rao. Photo by Siva Photography.

Can you describe the elements of classical Indian dance?

There are three parts to the dance. Part is the drama… what happens, what story is the dancer telling. The second part is the expression we bring to the drama. We use nine expressions, ranging from anger to shyness to wonder. And then there’s the footwork. The three must be in harmony for the piece to be complete.

India is such a huge country. Do regions share styles or stories?

We have eight classical dances recognized by the National Music and Arts Organization. The south has four and we have the others to the north and east. Their details are different but they have the same basic elements.

I know you are planning a dance concert on April 28th. Can you tell us about it?

We will present three dance schools in a program called Trilochana. The dances and their schools are Kuchipudi, which will be performed by Kalamandapam, from Fairfax; Bharatnatyam, which will be interpreted by Nrityanjali, from Chantilly; and Kathak by Lasya Dance Academy, also in Fairfax. All three schools have been teaching for over a decade and have a strong student body.

Trilochana: a presentation of Indian classical themed dance occurs April 28, 2019, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Lanier Middle School, 3801 Jermantown Road, Fairfax, VA. Tickets cost $ 20 at the door (cash only) or $ 15 if booked in advance by calling 571-989-0825 or going in line.


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