Contributed by Nandhini Varadaraj, President, RVCF
After a gap of two years, RVCF is back to hosting their community showcases Natyam & Sapthaswara live. I attended both these events recently (December 2021) as a host, MC, parent of a performer and as someone interested in the classical performing arts.
I first attended the Natyam & Sapthaswara in December 2019 as a parent and since then have been seeing the quality of performances improve greatly. The December 2021 event also saw Odissi performers for the first time in Natyam and a Dhrupad singer (Hindustani) for the very first time in Bentonville.
The community showcases are just that. It’s open for Ra - Ve members to perform and free for anyone to attend. One of the ways the Indian immigrant population keeps in touch with our roots is through learning these classical art forms and Bentonville thankfully has its more than fair share of teachers imparting these lessons.
Natyam and Sapthaswara are platforms for these students (kids and adults) where they can gain experience in performing to a small group. Although it is informal, Ra-Ve does encourage the performers to prepare by submitting their pieces and duration ahead. The audio / video, performance space and lighting are all arranged in a way that the artists gain a fairly true experience of a concert. Mistakes are allowed and encouraged so the student artists can learn from and gain confidence in their art.
Just as important it is to provide the space for the performers, it is important for the society to step up to support and motivate these artists. It was heartwarming to see every seat occupied and extra seating provided on the floor for the audience members.
I’ve been personally involved in organizing Sargam, another classical event between 2009 & 2016. It is inspiring to see how far some of the children have come since then. We are seeing the students who started their performance at Sargam unable to hold ‘araimandi’ or maintain the pitch, do spontaneous improvisations, manage rhythm and enthrall us with their foot work and expressions.
It’s a déjà vu moment to see the next generation of artists begin their journey at Natyam & Sapthaswara. I am looking forward to seeing these students grow into their own and pave the way for coming generations. It is a matter of handing over the baton and as adults of this thriving community, it is our duty to give them the space and support.
As with any live streamed event, we did run into technical delays and other mishaps, but nothing unmanageable and we are also learning through our mistakes.
It is ultimately the students, teachers and parents who drive this initiative. I hope this tribe grows and Ra-Ve is forced to increase the time allotted & move to a bigger space to accommodate many more in the audience.