Song of Surrender

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Generation Next

By Nandini Ramani

Rasika Kumar

(Reproduced from Sruti 345, June 2013)

Rasika Kumar is the daughter and disciple of Mythili Kumar — senior Bharatanatyam artist and artistic director of Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, California. Rasika started learning Bharatanatyam from her mother at the age of four and blossomed into a full-fledged performer very early. She started performing and touring for the productions of Abhinaya Dance Company along with her mother before diverse audiences in the U.S.A. and India. An alumnus of MIT, Boston, Rasika participated in various cultural events held in the greater Boston area while there.

After almost a decade of continuous performances and productions, Rasika travelled to India in 2004, to pursue advanced lessons in nritta and abhinaya from Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar and Kalanidhi Narayanan. After her return to the US, Rasika started intense work as a soloist; in addition, she started choreographing solo thematic as well as group productions of the Abhinaya Dance Company. Some themes choreographed by Rasika like Ritusamhara, Poetic Splendour, Prithvi, Rivers – A Mystical Journey, Nritya Sangati, and Jwala, gave her ample scope to hone her skills under the supervision of her mother. She has to her credit full-length solo productions like Saatvikaa, Dharma Yuddha, Courage, and Maya – The Mystery of Krishna. Gandhari, her solo dance theatre, received wide approbation for her use of abstract and mimetic movement to communicate the lamenting Gandhari – the self imposed-blind queen and mother of a hundred sons in the Mahabharata. Interesting solo features choreographed by Rasika include Call of the Flute based on lyrics from the Krishna Karnamritam, Crackles – an abstract work of group choreography interpreting the varied flames of fire, Tsunami – a tribute to the survivors who maintained order and dignity amidst chaos, The rise of Jhalkari Bai about the Rani of Jhansi and Tales of Immigrant Women, featuring Mythili and Rasika depicting the poignant stories of two women migrating from India to America.

Rasika is hailed as one of the best among the younger generation of Indian dancers in the US. With her tall and supple physique, she has quite a striking stage presence, and a talent for solo and group choreography. Rasika impresses with her sensitive and intelligent portrayal of various themes.

The Ethnic Dance Festivals invited Mythili and Rasika Kumar to present their choreographic works in 2008 and 2010. Rasika was selected to perform at the sjDANCEco’s Annual ChoreoProject Award in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and for the Western Wave Dance festival at San Francisco. Rasika received a Performing Arts Fellowship from the Arts Council, Silicon Valley in 2008 which helped her broaden her horizons. She collaborated with Franco Imperial of San Jose Taiko in a rhythmic item called Synergy, which won both the dance companies an Isadora Duncan Award in theMusic Category (2011). This item received praise for its fine blend of “technical proficiency and rhythmic texture of the joint effort”.

Mythili had learnt and performed Odissi, and it was but natural for Rasika to be drawn to the same art-form. Rasika trained in Odissi initially under Niharika Mohanty and in an intensive manner with Sujata and Ratikant Mohapatra. Rasika’s participation in the Odissi International festival in Bhubaneswar in 2011 fulfilled yet another ambition of hers.

Employed as a software engineer at Google Inc., Rasika has worked hard with great commitment to dance, earning recognition from the art-loving community of the Bay area. Belonging to a generation of Indians born in America, Rasika has also attempted to blend traditional Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance. With her firm grounding in Bharatanatyam, her artistic journey has been an insightful process of exploration where she strives to strike a balance between the two streams, based on their basic grammar and technique. For the “thinking dancer” that Rasika is, the sky is the limit.

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