The City of Glendale Library, Arts & Culture Department has a branch called the Brand Library & Art Center and it is a community advocate for the arts.  This public library is a marvelous sponsor of cultural and artistic growth in Los Angeles.  On Saturday, June 5th, 2021, The Brand Associates featured a virtual performance of an insightful and beautiful Indian based dance company from the buildings grounds.  A Los Angeles cultural gem the Rangoli Dance Company’s performance is a beautiful transcending treasure to witness.

When you see a shiny golden statue of the many-limed Hindu Shiva God, do you wonder about the history and culture behind this omnificent deity?  I can’t help but think about the splendor of this historic civilization.  In South India, over 2,000 years ago, Bharatanatyam incorporated stories, music, poetry; spiritualism all combined to form a challenging technique with stylized movement.  One of the oldest movements of worship – sacred dance, Artistic Directors Malathi Iyengar & Lakshmi Iyengar braved the pandemic of non-performance, only to enlighten us today with love and light.  The programs sections were offered in six segments.  The first piece Mallari choreographed by Malathi Iyengar displayed all six stunning ladies.  The indoor sections were performed in a blank white room.   This harmonious collaboration celebrates the battle of good over evil with music and singing by revered singer Rajkumar Bharathi.  The dancers Shivani Aysola, Vyshnavi Aysola, Hema Iyer, Nina Krishnan, Nishitha Viswanathan, & Anshu Voruganti, demonstrated strong stomping musical footwork with beautiful specific hand placement, exact angles and arm positioning.  They made the use of a sustained plié look effortless.  A unique, personified and significant facial expression was revealed through their distinct eye movements.  At final moments, they did have trouble transitioning into their final positions, however it did not deter from the over all performance.

Rangoli Dance Company - Photo by Msiyengar

Rangoli Dance Company – Photo by Msiyengar

The second section Chandrachooda, adorned by the moon, was demanding as it ran over twenty minutes in length.  The vibrant vocals came from Srivathsa Debur Shri and Purandara Daasa composed the powerful melody.  Director Malathi Iyengar choreographed an admiration of Lord Shiva, the performers Shivani Aysola, Vyshnavi Aysola, Hema Iyer, Nina Krishnan, Nishitha Viswanathan, & Anshu Voruganti all worked as one, and I could easily tell that these warrior goddesses were very well trained and rehearsed.  I couldn’t help but notice the incredible subtle nuances, which were ever so slightly changing, between masculine and feminine.  This quality is quite beautiful to watch and allowed the viewer to imagine some of Lord Shiva’s adventures.  A divine duet and solo were featured with pronounced story telling where you could picture Lord Shiva riding a bull.  The footwork was even faster and the end had a warm embracing celebratory feeling, while finishing in unique sustained poses.

Rangoli Dance Company - Photo byErin Herzog

Rangoli Dance Company – Photo byErin Herzog

Nina Krishnan & Anshu Voruganti performed the third movement called Tani Avarthanam, and a prayer on Ramayana.  In courageous red dresses and a large red dot on their hands, these artists provided stout meticulous arrangements.  The vocalist Nandakumar Unnikrishnan embraced a rhythm that was hypnotic and repetitive and choreographer Malathi Iyengar with the help of rhythmic composer Gurumurthy G. emphasized this pattern.

Rangoli Dance Company - Photo by Ssiyengar

Rangoli Dance Company – Photo by Ssiyengar

In the open air of the picturesque library grounds, the fourth section emerged called Narmada, a river poem.  The gorgeous music by Rajkumar Bharathi it contained flute playing by Prakash Hegde and violin by Embar Kannan, sustaining effervescent vocals by Nandakumar Unnikrishnan.  Paying homage to the holy River Narmada in India, Shivani Aysola, Vyshnavi Aysola, & Nishitha Viswanathan, with bell ankle bracelets, were idol like and incorporated a water element with a sacred bowl.  Many truly enjoyable moments from choreographer Malathi Iyengar are the directional changes.  The birdlike head motions were perfect while exhibiting fantastic musicality and rhythm.  The outdoor location was visually sublime and what better place then outside when describing nature.   Another water and feminine element, floating scarves were soothing in the light breeze.  Lakshmi Iyengar did an impeccable job at costume design.  This was a phenomenal segment and was my favorite presentation.

Rangoli Dance Company - Photo by Erin Herzog

Rangoli Dance Company – Photo by Erin Herzog

Thillana, a celebration was brought back indoors.  The fifth portion included five dancers Shivani Aysola, Vyshnavi Aysola, Nina Krishnan, Nishitha Viswanathan and Anshu Voruganti.  However, it first starts off with two and choreographer Malathi Iyengar is impressive as she continues to add a person throughout the number.   I really loved the repetitive segment, over and over, that displayed the beauty of the dancers doing exactly the same pass.  Another visual element was the use of a triangle diamond section that proved to me visually expressive and recalled a flock of birds flying in uniform.  This dance was definitely a pleasurable revel as it brought me to tears of joy.

In luminous blades of grass green saris the final sixth installment was Mantra Puchpam, a prayer.  The blessed prayer was in honor of the natural elemental forces such as water, air, fire, moon, sun and stars.  All music was pre-recorded except for the singing prayer.   A community singing prayer by the entire company including the artistic directors, allowed you to view each humans love for their religion, culture and displayed a humanistic quality that resonated to all who listened. This was a divine closing to a joyous show of beauty and otherworldly movement.

Rangoli Dance Company in the Rangoli Space - Photo by Msiyengar

Rangoli Dance Company in the Rangoli Space – Photo by Msiyengar

If you get a chance to see this company perform do yourself a favor and go.  In Los Angeles County, due to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s possible new position as Ambassador to India and how hard Covid-19 has hit India, the country has been on our minds and hearts.  A special thanks to Brand Associates curator Jamie Nichols for bringing us this superb dance series and to all those who support the increase of the arts and societal culture in our large meting pot of Los Angeles’s.   Hopefully soon there will be more live dance performances, however, there are online options for those still not ready to brave an indoor location.

To visit the Rangoli Dance Company website, click HERE.

To visit the Brand Library & Art Center, click HERE.

Written by Alice Alyce for LA Dance Chronicle.

Feature image: Rangoli Dance Company – Photo by Msiyengar