Mudra Dance Studio’s “Gyaan” deserves to be seen at the Kennedy Center and other national venues


“Gyaan” is not your typical showcase of energetic classical and contemporary Indian dance, which Mudra Dance Studio has become known for. It is, but it’s much more too.

The stage at the Lakewood Cultural Center, where Mudra has hosted many of its elaborate, every-other-year professionally-produced shows in the past decade, is partially filled with a backdrop of boxed-in platforms that serve as bandstands for the musicians. The boxes are white before the show, but once the house lights dim, they become three-dimensional screens for a complex visual interplay of videos that help tell the story that’s primarily told through dance in the front part of the stage.

This 3D multimedia richness is just one of the factors that sets “Gyaan” apart from a typical community dance recital, and even a level higher than Mudra’s typically impressive Indian showcases. It was so expensive to produce that the group launched a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for the production (it was only for a small fraction of the cost).

With “Gyaan” — Sanskrit for “knowledge through experience” — Mudra founder Namita Khanna Nariani has a message she wants the audience to absorb: that in today’s world of violence and tragedy, people have to come together and support each other. It seems trite to say it, but this show is about how love and community and art can save us all.
Continue reading

Mudra Dance Studio showcases its students in “Utsav IV” recital

Watching this 10-minute documentary by Los Angeles filmmaker Geeta Malik about our favorite Indian dance troupe, Mudra Dance Studio, reminds me how talented and dedicated the group is, and how thrilling it is to attend their every-other-year spectacular performances.

Since they performed “ILLhaam… Cycles… ILLumination” last year, we’ll have to wait until 2012 for the next big show. But this weekend we have the opportunity to check in and see an equally thrilling, if less produced, performance, “Utsav IV,” an annual recital of the students of all ages in the troupe, starting as young as 2 years old.

The show will be held at the Lakewood Cultural Center off Alameda and Wadsworth, 470 S. Allison Parkway at noon and again at 4 pm on Sunday, May 22. You can buy tickets for $15 online or at the door.

Mudra Dance Studio takes flight on “ILLhaam… Cycles… ILLumination”

It seems every time Mudra Dance Studio mounts one of its big productions — it’s been every two years for the last three shows — it’s worth the wait because the troupe’s founder, Namita Khanna Nariani, adds something new and incredible to the mix.

We’ve seen the Mudra troupe perform at all but one Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, so we’re not strangers to the talent of this remarkable South Asian organization, and to Nariani’s determination to stretch the artistic limits of traditional, classical Indian dance with contemporary aesthetics that rise above ripping off the hipness factor of Bollywood musicals with some shallow syncopated moves. but to see the Mudras dance a 30-minute set is one thing. The three-hour artistic tour-de-force that is their big blowout performances is something else entirely.
Continue reading

Modern Indian dance with Japanese taiko’s driving rhythms

Erin and I have great respect for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ need to preserve our traditional heritages — they enrich our lives and help give us our sense of identity with the countries of our ancestors. I think too few young Asian Americans hold on to their ethnic heritage.

At the same time, we’re not just about kimonos and martial arts and traditional music and dances, and don’t appreciate that outsiders (white people, mostly) view us through the exoticized filter of our cultural and social traditions. That’s why, during her tenure as editor-in-chief of Asian Avenure magazine, Erin sought to paint Denver’s AAPI communities with a broader palette. Major stories were about AAPIs in politics, the popularity of Anime with non-Asians, Asian Americans in the U.S. military, multi-racial Asian Americans and even how Asian Americans are excelling in hip-hop dance.

Erin also wrote this month about Namita Khanna Nariani, the founder of Mudra Dance Studio, who’s a terrific example of how AAPIs can synthesize their respect for traditional culture with the modern energy and pan-cultural richness of being Asian in America.
Continue reading