Nrityagram Indian Dance Ensemble
Dance of the heart and soul
      Indian classical dance is a beautiful wonder to behold, elegant and highly disciplined as the dancers use every part of their body
to tell a story. For the Nrityagram Indian Dance Ensemble, which will perform at the Wisconsin Union Theater March 6, Odissi and
other forms of Indian dance are outward manifestations of a way of life, a bearing that incorporates body and soul.
The ensemble takes its names from Nrityagram, an artistic dance colony that was founded about 20 years ago by Protima Gauri Bedi
in a natural area about 22 miles for Bangalore, India. Its natural, yet exquisite buildings of mud and granite blend into the aura and
nature that surround it. On weekends, they teach about 200 children from a near-by village and teach other dancers who come to stay
at the dance colony.
      Surupa Sen is the artistic director of the group, which just arrived in the United States for a two-month tour. Sen studied under
Bedi and has provided the leadership for the group since Bedi died in 1998. While some may think she is the guru of the students,
Sen said that the guru is a higher form. “I think the idea that the art form can be passed down from one generation to the next and
must be made accessible to the world is the guru,” Sen said in an interview with The Hues. “It should be done in a manner where we
do not compromise excellence or aesthetic. We bring to it a sense of international exchange. We can communicate with a much
larger audience; yet find something that is unique to it that it retains its purity and spiritual ethos.”
      While to the untrained eye, Indian classical dance may appear to be a rigid, traditional art form, it is actually an art form that has
evolved over thousands of years and continues to change. “We really have a vocabulary that has been handed down to us,” Sen
said. “It is a very highly evolved vocabulary where there is a language for the eyes and every single part of the human body and the
various ways that you can move it. Therefore, once you learn the language, I suppose you can relate it to any language like English
and French or Hindi. Basically, you have a language at your disposal and you learn to tell your own story.”
      Through the years, Nrityagram has polished the stories that it wants to tell its audience, stories that transcend the cultural
boundaries of India. “We communicate all of our stories by way of actually explaining them before we come on to dance, especially
the ones that have stories attached to them,” Sen said. “This allows the audience to access it better. Whether it is in India, in Europe
or the United States, we have become global by nature in terms of our understanding of art. It communicates beyond those
boundaries. We communicate our aesthetic, which is very specific to us, yet are able to lead our audiences on the same journey. We
hope our audience will enjoy it as much as any Indian in India.”
      The performance of the Nrityagram Indian Dance Ensemble is bound to be pleasing to your eyes as it touches your inner soul.
— Jonathan Gramling