Eleven MIT students and affiliates have been practicing almost daily in preparation for this weekend's debut performance by MIT's new Indian classical dance group, MIT Natya.
MIT Natya began in the fall of 1999 as the MIT Bharatha Naatyam Club. The club's original name reflected its focus on one of the seven styles of Indian classical dance, but when members recently decided to expand the scope of the organization, they renamed it "Natya," which simply means "dance."
The group now works to raise awareness about all forms of Indian classical dance and gives MIT dancers an opportunity to meet, practice and perform. Their performances on Sept. 28 and 29 will feature seven solos and duets, and one group dance that features all nine dancers.
Club members are looking forward to displaying their hard work, said Natya co-president Sumati Ram-Mohan, a junior in brain and cognitive sciences. "It's rewarding to watch people who haven't seen the art form before," she said. "They can see how beautiful and different it is."
While the hours of practice may be an ongoing challenge for group members, Ram-Mohan and dancer Anindita Basu, a graduate student in media arts and sciences, said they faced another challenge as well: most of the dancers had already developed strong personal dance styles after studying privately with different teachers in India and the United States since the age of seven or eight, thus making it difficult to create a unified style for the group dance.
The title of their production, "Natyanjali," translates as "offering of dance" and reflects the spiritual nature of this art form. The performance will feature four styles of dance: Bharatha Naatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi and Kathak. Although they differ in origin and stylistic elements, all four styles have roots in Hindu mythology and religion. Both Bharatha Naatyam and Odissi began as temple dances, practiced by female devadasis, or "servants of god." They strongly reflect the influence of Hindu devotion. Kathak and Kuchipudi began as storytelling dances, with movements that told stories common in Hindu mythology.
"Natyanjali" begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29 in Kresge Little Theater. Tickets are $5 for MIT students, faculty and staff and $7 for general audience members, and will be available in Lobby 10 on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 26-27 and at the door. For more information, go here or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 26, 2001.