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Two local dancers introduce Richmonders to classical Indian movements.

A Move to the East


6 p.m.
Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center
Saturday, Aug. 28
261-6200 or 364-1686

When Sudha Vadlamani and her husband were shopping for a house in Richmond, it was agreed that there would be one feature not be overlooked: a room spacious enough for dancing. That found, they moved into their new home, and she practiced regularly in her furniture-free room. Soon after, while at the Hindu Center of Virginia, Vadlamani's husband met Uma Chetty, who also danced in her home. He suggested the two women meet.

The result of that encounter is "Nrithyanjali," a program of classical Indian dance, to be held at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen on Saturday, Aug. 28.

Vadlamani, who grew up in Andhra Padresh in India, and Chetty, who is from Singapore, have been dancing since their preteens. For the last 10 years, Vadlamani has practiced kuchipudi, the more lyrical and fluid of the two dances, as taught to her by Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyma. Once a dance form practiced only by men, Satyma took the historically bold move to cut the epic dances into solos and invited women to perform. "He thought women could do it better than men," Vadlamani explains.

Chetty practices bharata natyam, a dance form originally practiced by temple prostitutes. Compared to kuchipudi, bharata natyam contains sharper movements and more emphatic feet rhythms. The three respective syllables of the word bharata can be translated as facial expression (bha), musical notes (ra) and rhythm (ta).

Both dances recreate stories from Hindu literature and mythology and are told through intricate hand, eye and foot movements. "These dances play a big part in teaching us about Indian culture," Chetty explains. "The country encourages people, particularly children, to see classical dance. It's how they learn about marriage and religion, for instance."

The dances, as are all classical Indian dances, are drawn from the "Natya Shastra," a book about 5,000 years old, compiled over several centuries. This book provides the theory behind the dances and details the 64 basic dance steps (adavus), the nine facial expressions, (navarasas), and the many hand gestures, footwork patterns and rhythms used in classical dance.

Vadlamani, who is a mother, part-time bank employee, and a soon-to-be college student in accounting, squeezes in dance at 5:30 a.m., before the rest of her family has risen, or late in the evening. "It's something I must do for myself," she says "It feels sooo good. If you like something, you find the time."

A mother also, Chetty's schedule is no less busy as she pursues an M.B.A. at the University of Richmond. "After dancing," Chetty says, "I have this incredible feeling of being cleansed."

Not surprisingly, Richmond provides fewer opportunities in classical Indian dance when compared to the women's native homes where it occurred daily. Both women relish any chance to dance and hope this concert, with eight solos and one duet, garners more interest in the

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