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Shri Krupa Dance Company of San Jose, in collaboration with the Alagappa Performing Arts Academy of Escondido launched the Degree Program in Bharathanatyam on Saturday, November 25, 2005. Held at the India Cultural Center in Milpitas, CA, the event attracted over 100 students and their families, and presided by cine actress Padmani Ramachandran who popularized Bharathanatyam in Indian cinema. Bharathanatyam is a classical dance form originating some three millennia ago in Southern India that combines artistic expression with an essence of spirituality. Though various Indian institutions offer degree programs in Bharathanatyam, it is only now that students in this country are able to partake of a structured format of learning. This unique Degree Program offers an innovative approach tailored to meet the specific needs of students in the U.S.
Vishal Ramani, Founder and Director of Shri Krupa, opened the event with inspirational words. “Students put in a lot of devotion and time into perfecting their performance. However, after their Arangetrams, they move on to other aspects of their lives. Years later, when they want to pick up where they left off, they are unable to do so since the art of Bharathanatyam requires constant practice and discipline. With this new degree program, students are motivated to pursue their dance studies and obtain a degree in the process.”
Ramanath Vairavan, Founder and CEO of the Alagappa Academy for Performing Arts, who has spearheaded this program, further elaborated on the specifics of this pioneering initiative. The program is essentially the result of a collaboration of various institutions and renowned artists. Developed by the Academy’s distinguished advisory committee (which includes Shri Krupa’s Ramani and Madurai Muralidharan) in conjunction with the Alagappa University in India, the Degree Program is based on a structured and progressive learning format. Students have the option to enroll in four various programs ranging from a 1-year Certificate degree to a 4-year Bachelor’s degree. The program enhances the learning process by utilizing interactive instructional aids that provide a strong theoretical base along with detailed description of postures and techniques. This innovative technique also provides students with a comprehensive foundation in the classical and folk dance forms of India since, according to Ramani, these various dances have greatly influenced the artistic manifestation of Bharathanatyam.
The highlight of the event was an impromptu performance by Ramani and Ramachandran, which clearly demonstrated Ramani’s point that Bharathanatyam is heavily influenced by the dancer’s experiences and exposure to other art forms. Though the two danced to the same lyrics, the difference in their interpretations was obvious through their facial expressions, gestures and movements.
Ramani, renowned dancer, teacher, and choreographer, has been teaching Bharathanatyam for almost three decades, and opened the first school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Under her inspired guidance and creative vitality, the Shri Krupa Dance Company is now considered to be one of the leading schools of Bharathanatyam in the United States. It is one of the five groups in residence at the City of San Jose's Multicultural Arts incubation program and is the first dance company in residence at the San Jose Repertory Theatre. It is also the first and only accreditation center on the West Coast for the Degree Program in Bharathanatyam.