A Show of Indian Dance Forms and Enraptured Russian Hearts

If one wants to go back to the classical world of music and opera, one need not look further than Moscow. Russia has a great musical tradition and many of the world's greatest operas and symphonies premiered here including Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov. Most visitors don’t miss the Bolshoi theatre, while the Stanislavsky theatre is also of outstanding class, as is the relatively new Helikon opera.

India’s connect to this land has been one of kinship - both in hard and soft power. It is said the city of Astrakhan held a significant Hindu presence in ancient times. The city on the banks of Volga, along the Caspian sea was very fertile and attracted many people including Indians.

This evening we can witness a beautiful coming together of India and Russia, as Namaha foundation, a premier organisation in the Tri Valley area in the US presents the teachers and students of Nritya Sahba Nritya Sabha Foundation for Indian Cultural Heritage Studies of Moscow in a special programme titled 'From Russia with Love'. Register here: https://forms.gle/U8EN4WHQLMEqjyC47

Among the special dances, we will witness the dance rendition of a beautiful composition by Shri Adi Shankaracharya, the Ardhanarishwara stotra, by Guru Nadezhda Kovriga and disciple Ekaterina Nazarova Nadezhda of Russia. Kovriga is a performer and a choreographer of Bharatnatyam, graduating from Kalakshetra College of fine arts in 1997.

Promos: https://youtu.be/VZu24JEn070

Nritya Sabha, Moscow

In 2008, Nritya Sabha was recognized by the ICCR as an Empanelled Foundation”, the first ever foreign organization to be given this status. Their activities include Training students in Indian Classical Dance forms, conducting and directing performances, festivals, workshops, seminars, lec/dems and collaborating with like-minded organizations both within Russia and outside.

Their teachers will be performing at this evening’s presentation. The performance will open with the students of Irina Isrorostenskaya - Maria Jiltsova and Anna Apostolova. Maria and Anna, have been training under Irina for the past 12 years and have performed and organized their own programs. Irina is an alumni of the Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai. In 1986, she started taking private lessons in Bharatanatyam under Nirmala Ramachandran, and later under Jyolsana Menon after graduating from Kalakshetra. She has also had Nattuvangam training under the guidance of Bhagavthulu Sitaramasharma at the Kala Peetham Institute.

Since her return to Moscow in 1998, Irina continued her practice of this art form and founded the Natyashrama dance studio. In 2003, she co founded the Nritya Sabha foundation.

Apart from Bharatanatyam, Nritya Sabha also is associated with Omkara, Theatre of Indian dance. The artistic director of Omkara is world renowned Odissi dancer and guru, Sujata Mohapatra.

Moscow is also home to the Chakkar school of Kathak dance, led by Ekaterina Seliverstova. The Chakkar group is one of the leading
Kathak dance groups in Russia, successfully performing all over Russia and abroad. In 2009 the Chakkar group performed in the Opening concerts of the grand festival “Year of India in Russia” in the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow and State Academic Philharmonic, Saint Petersburg. The Chakkar group was the only Russian group to perform in this event.

In 2013 “Chakkar” dance group successfully performed in Russian Centre for Science and Culture, New Delhi, India and in 2019 took
part in Indo-Russian Cultural Summit, organized by TAAF (New Delhi and Gwalior, India).The artists included Elena Antonova, Mariya Anufrieva, Marina Dikareva, Oksana Malakhova, Anastasiya Smislova, Olga Tcherbakova of the Chakkar group. Svetlava Stasilevich is one of the senior disciples of Vera Krishnaraj. She has trained for over 15 years in Kuchipudi.

Vera Krishnaraj an exponent of Kuchipudi, is a teacher and horeographer in Nritya Sabha, and also the founder of “Natyalayam” – school of Kuchipudi dance in Moscow. She is a direct disciple of Padma Bhushana, Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam. Vera and her students have performed extensively throughout Russia and elsewhere.

Vera Krishnaraj

The Ardhanarishwara stotra will be performed today by Guru Nadezhda Kovriga and her disciple Ekaterina Nazarova, Kovriga’s teachers at Kalakshetra were the renowned masters such as S Janardhanan, Ganga Thampi, Panga Thodi Narendran and Jyolsna Menon. On her return to Russia, Nadezhda continued her dancing career, participating in many festivals of Indian culture, in Russia, Kazakhstan, Hungary and India under the patronage of ISKCON. She has also performed with her own dance group around Russia.

She become a member of the Nritya Sabha Foundation in 2003 and heads a Bharatnatyam Dance School called 'Revati'. Nazarova - is a student at Revati school under the guidance of Guru Nadejda Kovriga. Ekaterina started learning Bharatanatyam after studying the history and culture of India in Moscow university.

A Kathak performance, a duet by Ashwani Nigam and senior disciple Svetlana Nigam will be another offering.Guru Ashwani Nigam was the first and still is the only Indian origin Kathak teacher in Russia. He has been working in Russia for 24 years. A prominent choreographer of many dance projects all over Russia, He has been running a theatre of Indian dance 'Tarang' since 1999 and has prepared many Russian professional dancers in the Kathak style. Ashwani is also a member of Nritya Sabha Foundation. His student Svetlana Nigam completed her Degree in Kathak from Prayag Sangeet Samiti India in 2007.

Vitalina Lobach, artistic group leader of the ‘Odissi Jeevan Nritya’ team will present a lovely piece on Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha and the gopikas enjoying the Holi festival. Vitalina studied Odissi dance at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Art Institute (New Delhi, India) on a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations under the guidance of the famous dancer and teacher Madhvi Mudgal from 1990 to 1995.

In 1995, on her return to Moscow, she founded the Odissi Jeevan Nritya dance school. Vitalina widely performs in Russia and India and regularly conducts workshops on Odissi dance.

The next piece is a lovely representation of the traditional Mohiniattam repertoire, the Pandaatam - a game of playing ball. Alexandra Vodopyanova – a Mohiniyattam dancer and the head of Lasya Kalakari school in Moscow, is a member of Nritya Sabha foundation. She is a disciple of the legendary Guru Padmashree Bharati Shivaji, and her daughter, Vijayalakshmi. A recent graduate of Center for Mohiniyattam institution, under the guidance of Bharati Shivaji, Alexandra has performed with the CFM troupe, along with her Guru and has participated in many productions of the institution.

Elena Knyazeva will present another traditional piece performed by most classical dance styles, the Ashtapadi. Elena, is a Moscow based professional Odissi dancer and teacher and an artist of the “Nritya Sabha” Foundation. She is the Artistic director of her own group “Odissi” Dance Project. Elena has dedicated herself to this classical dance for over two decades now. She is a diploma holder from the “Prayag Sangeet Samity” Institute of culture (India).

Tatiana Nazarova will presents another piece on Lord Krishna in the Kathak style - a lovely Surdas bhajan. Tatiana Nazarova is a post-graduate from the National Institute of Kathak dance "Kathak Kendra", New Delhi. Tatiana learnt Kathak for 13 years under the guidance of eminent Guru Munna Shukla and has performed
at major festivals all over India. She is the co founder and artistic director of Nritya Sabha Foundation.

Alexandra will also present Chhau for which she trained under Pandit Gopal Prasad Dubey, Shashidhar Acharya and Sapan Acharya. She graduated from Triveni Kala Sangam with a diploma in Seraikela Chhau.

The Kalina Taal will be presented by Mariya Anufrieva, Yuliya Kardashova, Ekaterina Korost, Anna Litvinova.

Finally a Thillana, usually performed at the end of a traditional south indian dance recital. Today the Thillana is being being performed by Dmitriy Zmeyev in the Bharatanatyam style and Eleonora Petrova in the Kathak style. Dmitriy Zmeyev studied the Pandanallur style of Bharatnatyam under Guru Nana Casar at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya University of Indian Classical Music and Dance in New Delhi. Later, he continued his Bharatnatyam training under the tutelage of Lila Samson, one of the brightest exponents of the Kalakshetra School. Dmitriy continued his training at Triveni Kala Sangam Institute under the guidance of JayaLakshmi Ishwar and also learned the art of playing Talam, or the Nattuvangam. He graduated with honours from the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. On his return to Russia he founded “Natya Rekha” dance School, and is one of the leading members of Nriya Sabha Foundation.

Eleonora Petrova is a Moscow based Kathak dancer and choreographer. She is a Government of India scholarship holder and a post-graduate of "Kathak Kendra". She runs her own dance school “G-taal” and widely performs in Russia and other countries. Eleonora learnt Kathak under the guidance of Rajendra Gangani of Jaipur gharana.

The evening will also have the Shivapadam repertoire! Even though the Shivapadams are composed in Telugu and set to Carnatic music, they are being extensively explored in recent days by various dance styles individually or in collaboration with multiple styles. A dance is dedicated to Lord Shiva who destroyed the arrogance of Manmadha. The last event will be a Padam dedicated to Lord Shiva who loves to perform the cosmic dance, Taandavam. A composition from “Shivapadam” by Brahmasri Dr. Samavedam Shanmukha Sarma, has been choreographed by Ekaterina Seliverstova, Tatyana Nazarova, Irina Iskorostenskaia, Elena Knyazeva and will be performed by Tatyana Nazarova, Mariya Anufrieva,
Anastasiya Smislova, Olga Scherbakova, Alexandra Vodopyanova, Anna Apostolova, Elena Knyazeva, Anna Maya Panchenko, Alexandra Vodopyanova. It will be performed in Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, Odissi and Kathak styles.

Namaha Foundation is organising "From Russia with Love" to support the Nritya Sabha Foundation during these difficult times of pandemic lockdown. Promo https://youtu.be/Z2uJr0IhUyw

Namaha Foundation for the Arts was founded by Guru Vidushi Naina Shastri (artistic director of Ushanjali School of Dance and Vice Chair of the Arts Advisory Committee of the City of San Ramon), six years ago in San Ramon to bring quality performances to the Tri Valley area and to provide platforms and opportunities to upcoming artists.

To know more about its activities and to apply for performing in their various events, artists can visit www.namahaarts.org or contact them via email at namahaffa@gmail.com.