Bharatanatyam on the BART: Zavain Dar

Zavain Dar. (Photo by Weiferd Watts)

As we filed on to the escalator taking passengers up from the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one struck by the dancer in one of the large posters on the wall. Others also took more than a cursory look at the young man captured in a graceful pose. He made a striking figure in a black short-sleeved tee, with ornate traditional jewelry layered on top in bold relief. Bharatanatyam, I thought, and wondered if “Zavain Dar” was a visiting artist from India.

Actually, Pakistan-born, Berkeley-raised Dar is an undergrad at Stanford, where he has participated in competitive garba raas, among many other activities. Dar has studied the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam with teacher Arul Francis for several years (his dedication is evident in a 2003 story that encounters a young Dar at his lesson, where Francis mentions that his students from Pakistan have outlasted all his Indian students ). Francis says, “Zavain started learning from me when he was an 11-year-old child in 2000. Now he’s turning into a very talented dancer and so for his varnam, I chose “Danike” the very difficult varnam in ragam Todi.” View moments from their lesson of March 16, 2008.

Francis’s Guru, Pandanallur C. Subbaraya Pillai, passed away just days ago on May 12. He was the last surviving of three famous gurus from an ancestral dance-teaching family known for being the leading teachers of the Tanjore Quartet dance compositions. For more information about the Pandanullar style and the dance Guru’s life, please see additional articles—“With a firm grip on tradition,” “Guardian of Pandanullar tradition,” “Zealous guardian of a tradition“—plus Francis’s personal reflection on the passing of his Guru.

Dar’s performances for this weekend conclude Sunday evening, 6pm, at 3316 24th St., San Francisco. (More event details.) Also performing Bharatanatyam in the Bay Area this weekend is Srekala Bharath, an accomplished senior dancer from Madras. 3pm, Sunday May 18, 2008. (Tickets plus venue info.)

May 18, 2008
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  1. September 5, 2008, 11:01 am zavain