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Pamela Squires in Washington Post

Fall Festival of Indian Dance

– Pamela Squires (www.washingtonpost.com)

October 27, 2008 

What a huge difference between a good dancer and a true artist. And how patently clear and exhilarating that was when guest Bharatanatyam artist Shanta Dhananjayan took the stage Saturday at the Lincoln Theatre for the fifth annual Fall Festival of Indian Arts.

She is lit from within, downright penurious when it comes to economy of movement, and an actress of great nuance. She tosses off complex rhythmic passages with ease. Like a great musician, she conceives of each and every phrase (in her case, movement, music and story) in terms of what has led up to it and where it is going. Seeing her perform is revelatory, like experiencing a jumble of words suddenly transform into crystal-clear sentences.

Now in her 60s, she and her husband, V.P. Dhananjayan, are on their last tour. How special it was, then, that local audiences were privy to what may be one her last public performances in the United States. Congratulations to festival director Daniel Singh for arranging it.

The evening was extremely long, running for over three hours. In addition to the Dhananjayans’ “Bhakti-Maargam (Path of Devotion),” Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company performed an entire program of pretty creditable Bharatanatyam plus some still heavy-handed attempts at blending this genre with modern dance. Singh’s company has a long way to go to be a top local company like CityDance Ensemble, but it also has come a long way over the years and deserves credit for making the most of a large and growing pool of locally trained Indian classical dancers.

On Sunday, the festival presented well-known Indian dancer and performance artist Mallika Sarabhai.