Navaratri Honors its Founder at 36th Annual Festival (Oct. 17-21)

Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge discusses working with T. Viswanathan, and the events of the 36th annual Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan (October 17-21, 2012).  

T. Viswanathan

I had the great fortune of working with T. Viswanathan soon after I arrived at Wesleyan to plan the annual Navaratri Festival. And in the two years I worked with him before he died in 2002, I learned so much.  I learned about the number of contacts Viswa had around the world, and how so many of them were interested in performing at Wesleyan because of our reputation as a place that honors and celebrates Indian music and dance.  I learned about Viswa’s family lineage and about his sister, the astonishing Balasaraswati, a bharata natyam dancer of the highest distinction, and his brother Ranganathan, a spectacular mridangam player.  And I learned about his talented students, from Jon B. Higgins, former Center for the Arts Director, who was one of the most renowned Carnatic singers in the world, to David Nelson, a mridangam player who is an Artist in Residence in the Music Department.

Viswa taught at Wesleyan from 1975 to 2002, and he founded the Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan 36 years ago. A panel of his students will open the festival on Wednesday at 4:15pm in CFA Hall and discuss aspects of his profound legacy to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his passing. Wesleyan Music Department faculty members B. Balasubrahmaniyan and David Nelson will be joined by Josepha Cormack Viswanathan Ph.D. ’92 and Douglas Knight ’70.

The festival continues with a concert of South Indian vocal music on Friday at 8pm by B. Balasubrahmaniyan, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music, joined by David Nelson on mridangam [and violinist L. Ramakrishnan] in Crowell Concert Hall. On Saturday, T.V. Sankaranarayanan, one of the most widely sought after Carnatic vocalists in the world, comes to Wesleyan from India to perform at 7pm in Crowell Concert Hall [along with Vittal Ramamurthy on violin and Thiruvarur Bakthavathsalam on mridangam]. The festival closes on Sunday with a puja (Hindu worship service) at 11am in World Music Hall, and a bharata natyam dance concert by Rama Vaidyanathan in Crowell Concert Hall. Ms. Vaidyanathan was scheduled to perform at last year’s Navaratri Festival, which had to be cut short due to a rare October snow storm.

We invited Hari Krishnan, Assistant Professor of Dance, to write to us about Sunday’s performance by Rama Vaidyanathan.  Here’s what he said:

Rama is a leading Bharatanatyam dancer from her generation in India today. Through sheer hard work and constantly creating new innovative dances, Rama has transformed the traditional solo dance of Bharatanatyam into a vibrant, dynamic and engaging solo dance style—current and relevant for a 21st century global audience. This is why she is much sought after by the most avant-garde theaters/festivals in Europe to the most conservative classical arts-friendly venues in India. Rama’s Bharatanatyam cuts across linguistic, social, political and cultural boundaries.

Rama is also a dear friend and I remember in the summer of 2010 when we were on the teaching faculty for a dance residency in the U.K., the students had insisted that we perform together. Not having prepared any piece, we improvised right there and performed a nouveau-Bharatanatyam duet to the delight of all present.

Being a contemporary dance and Bharatanatyam dance artist myself, I wasn’t too sure if Rama would be game to improvising a duet with me involving close physical touch. I was struck at Rama’s versatility—not only does she collaborate passionately  but she also boldly brings her art into new experimental terrains while still maintaining her identity of that of a classical Bharatanatyam dancer. She is able to bring out the inherent beauty of the Bharatanatyam form with her creativity and genuine love for the dance.

I am delighted Rama is performing at Wesleyan with her team of stellar musicians [vocalist Indu Sivankutty Nair, violinist Vikram Raghukumar, K. Sivakumar on nattuvangam, and Kalapurakkal Arun Kumar on mridangam], offering her dazzling, highly individual brand of Bharatanatyam.  Wesleyan is truly in for a treat of innovation, grace and pure joy—a Bharatanataym 21st century gazelle will be strutting her stuff on the Crowell Concert Hall stage this Sunday afternoon.

36th annual Navaratri Festival

Colloquium: The Wesleyan Legacy of T. Viswanathan (1927-2002)
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 4:15pm

CFA Hall 


Henna and Chaat hosted by Shakti
Thursday, October 18, 2012 from 7pm to 8:30pm
Olin Library Lobby

B. Balasubrahmaniyan: Vocal Music of South India
Friday, October 19, 2012 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$12 general public; $10 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Pre-concert talk on the music of T. Viswanathan at 7:15pm by Wesleyan Ph.D. Candidate Joseph Getter

T.V. Sankaranarayanan Concert
Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 7pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Saraswati Puja (Hindu Ceremony)
Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 11am
World Music Hall

Rama Vaidyanathan: Bharata Natyam Dance
Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 3pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$15 general public; $12 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

1 thought on “Navaratri Honors its Founder at 36th Annual Festival (Oct. 17-21)”

  1. Due to illness, tonight’s Navaratri Festival concert, “B. Balasubrahmaniyan: Vocal Music of South India”, has been postponed until Friday, November 2 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall. The Wesleyan University Box Office is contacting all ticket holders; tickets for tonight’s concert will be honored at the rescheduled concert. Patrons may also exchange their tickets for one of the other Navaratri Festival events this weekend in Crowell Concert Hall: the concert by T.V. Sankaranarayanan (Saturday, October 20 at 7pm) or the dance performance by Rama Vaidyanathan (Sunday, October 21 at 3pm).

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