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.

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1 Comment         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   May 18, 2008

Pillow Talk

The September issue of Domino magazine profiles Montreal-based textile designer Anupama Swaminadhan, whose years-ago stint overseeing the production of couture fabrics in India informs her current work. Swaminadhan’s new line of pillows, stoles and other home accessories are created through kalamkari, an ancient Indian printing technique. The dyes used in the line are all-natural and come from vegetable and mineral dyes. For inspiration, Swaminadhan draws on India’s “[t]raditional temple art depicting mythological scenes and narratives.”

Domino also features Swaminadhan’s line in its back-of-the-book “Domino Deals” section.

More: Anupama Swaminadhan’s official site.

Comments Off on Pillow Talk         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   September 21, 2007

“East Facing” Debuts On West Coast

Prasant Radhakrishnan

Solo artist and founder of Carnatic jazz ensemble VidyA, Prasant Radhakrishnan invites you to a concert in Milpitas, California, on August 5, benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and marking the release of his third Carnatic saxophone album, “East Facing.” (Buy tickets here or here. To hear the album, visit his music page and launch player.) The album’s title references the “tradition that the student must face East when bowing to receive the guru’s blessings with the intention of growing and moving forward.” Radhakrishnan’s musical guru is Padmashri Kadri Gopalnath (“Saxophone Chakravarthy”), “the man who almost single-handedly made the Indian saxophone respectable.” (India Currents.)

“I wanted to do something that was relevant locally but still had a universal message beyond something as simple as ‘a CD has been released,'” says Radhakrishnan. “LLS is a nonprofit that is dealing with a very relevant issue today, especially with the Indian community (see and I have done many benefit concerts for things like AID and Asha, but had not done something so close to the community and also related to health. Reading about these issues, I really wanted to do something to get involved, however small.” Read the rest of this entry »

1 Comment         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   July 22, 2007

Rupa’s Bastille Day Bash

Global fusion group Rupa & the April Fishes have good reason to celebrate these days. Earlier this year they released their debut CD, Extraordinary Rendition, and a tour including Canada and Mexico is scheduled to follow in September. This spring they received a Mastermind award as part of SF Weekly‘s program to celebrate local artists who are changing the creative and cultural landscape of San Francisco.

For the band with a Francophone lead singer today brings a fantastic reason for a fête—Bastille Day! Celebrate the spirit of romance (and Roma) and rebellion at SF’s Great American Music Hall tonight, Saturday, July 14, with Rupa & the April Fishes. Look for mimes in the moshpit and crepes in the balcony and Malamaña on stilts. Listen for MC Rai (North African and electronica), Les Croques-Notes (French chanteur classics) and DJ Mignane (French/Senegalese) at what should be a truly international celebration.

Earlier in the day you can catch the band on the radio on “West Coast Live,” a long-running live and unscripted Saturday morning variety show.

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Written Word Festival…In the Works

in the works

This Saturday, June 30, is a day to celebrate the written word by attending In the Works, a play reading series festival presented by Artwallah, designed to nurture and develop the work of South Asian writers. You can buy tickets on the festival page or inquire about opportunities available to volunteer in exchange for seeing all three readings that day.

Taking place at LA’s East West Players, “the nation’s pre-eminent Asian American theater troupe,” and providing a platform for collaboration between playwrights, screenwriters, directors and performers living in North America and South Asia, the festival will highlight works-in-progress and offer those who attend a chance to share thoughts and feedback with the writers. Descriptions of the three works are included below if you click to read the rest of this post.

In The Works features: Parvesh Cheena, Hari Dhillon, Reena Dutt, Ravi Kapoor, Shishir Kurup, Sunil Malhotra, Viji Nathan, Naveen, Lina Patel, Winston Rocha, Rabeya Sen, Meena Serendib, Amita Sheth, Meera Simhan, and Shaheen Vaaz.
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Comments Off on Written Word Festival…In the Works         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   June 29, 2007
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Diversity of Dance on Display in SF

From Afro-Peruvian to Appalachian to Pilipino, you can find these influences and many more in the global smorgasbord of dance offered for three weekends this month at the Palace of Fine Arts by the 29th Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. One of the largest cultural dance festivals in the United States, it has presented over 14,000 dancers since 1978, when it was originally founded and produced as the first multicultural, city-sponsored ethnic dance festival in America.

Performers are selected through annual auditions held in January open to artists residing in northern California or individual guest artists performing with a local group. This year’s diverse lineup includes Indian dance forms kathak, bharatanatyam and odissi. Artists affiliated with the iKathak School of Classical Indian Dance, Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose and Jyoti Kala Mandir College of Classical Indian Dance will be participating in the program, entitled “Evocations: Revealing universalities of world cultures through dance.”

SF Chronicle’s 2007 and 2006 coverage
KQED Arts: Profile reviews of 2005 programs
2004 photos

Comments Off on Diversity of Dance on Display in SF         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   June 13, 2007

Stuff Gets Stupid(er)

Stuff magazine, not exactly known for its highbrow content, may have crossed a line in its continual quest to whet the prurient appetites of its readership. Alongside a June 2007 quiz entitled “Yoga Pose, Drink or Sex Position?” wherein readers have to decide in which category names like “downward facing dog” and “reverse cowgirl” belong, an illustration labeled “Vice” depicts Hindu deities overindulging in alcohol and having sex.

For me the cartoon is troubling on a number of different levels. Although I support the magazine’s freedom of expression, as a practicing Hindu, I find those images deeply offensive. Also profoundly irritating to me is the obvious ignorance at issue here. While Indian culture today is rather prudish, ancient Hinduism acknowledged and even celebrated sexuality—witness the worship of the obviously phallic Shiva lingam, or the erotic carvings at Khajuraho. But instead of playing on those readily available themes, the artist chose instead to draw Hanuman, noted for his celibacy, having sex.
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30 Comments         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   June 5, 2007

The Bard Gets Down With Brown in Love’s Labor’s Lost

Nitya Vidyasagar as Jaquenetta, ensemble member James Rana and sitar player Brian Q (Stan Barouh).

The universality of Shakespeare’s themes allow his plays to take place in settings as varied as Nazi Germany and gang-ridden Los Angeles. And for two weeks in Washington, D.C., The Shakespeare Theatre Company Free For All has taken the Bard and his audience to a tripped-out version of India with a delightful and exuberant staging of the comedy Love’s Labor’s Lost. The production is the company’s contribution to the 6-month long Shakespeare in Washington Festival; you have until Sunday to see the play at D.C.’s Carter Barron Amphitheater. The outdoor setting is perfect for this show, as a more stodgy environment would have taken away from this irreverent spin on Shakespeare’s work.
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DC-ists: Check Out Duology Tonight


Attention readers in DC: Are you experiencing a long-weekend hangover? Is it hard to slog through the work week after three glorious days off? Break up the monotony by checking out Duology tonight, performing live at 8 p.m. at DC’s The Red and the Black.

You’ll groove to Duology’s self-described improvisational music that will “stimulate the mind and body” and “take you on a musical journey that reflects the ethnic roots of its members, the spice of Latin America, their extensive studies of straight-ahead jazz, and the funky sounds of their hometown, Washington, D.C.”

Duology is the collaboration between buddies Sriram Gopal (drumset and percussion) and Geoff Rohrbach (keyboards and flute). talked to Duology’s Gopal to find out how the band came to be.

How did you guys get started? What’s your sound like?
Geoff and I played in a Latin fusion quintet from 2002-2004. That band dissolved but the two of us enjoyed playing together, so we formed The Duology Band in 2004. Geoff writes most of the material and I book all the gigs. It’s a good division of labor.

We play instrumental jazz fusion. Until this year, our gigs were mainly in jazz clubs around DC/Baltimore, but our sound has become more “rocked” out recently and so we’ve started trying to get gigs in rock clubs. We put out a CD, One and One Makes One, in September 2005.
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Comments Off on DC-ists: Check Out Duology Tonight         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   May 30, 2007

Let’s Put It On

The Daily Desi suggests that we run out to see Thukral & Tagra’s exhibit “Put It On” at Bose Pascia in Chelsea, Manhattan, while it’s still hot. Hosting the show until June 9, and established in 1994, the gallery was the first in the West to specialize in and promote contemporary and avant-garde art from South Asia.

New Delhi-based Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra work collaboratively in a wide variety of media including painting, sculpture, installation, video, graphic and product design, websites, music and fashion.

In their latest exhibition, “Put It On,” they channel their collaborative artistry into “arriving at a range of probable solutions for HIV awareness and vigilance through the visual arts.” The resulting works include stylistic and creative placement of pictures of proper condom usage throughout large-scale canvas paintings and mixed-media installations with custom-designed underwear and flip-flops.

Photos of Thukral & Tagra’s Everyday BoseDK exhibit in New Delhi last month; BoseDK Designs, T&T’s consortium of graphic designers, illustrators, film-makers and design-inclined writers. With e-zines.

Comments Off on Let’s Put It On         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   May 29, 2007