Mythili Kumar (Artistic Director and Choreographer) is an accomplished artist who performed extensively in India before moving to the U.S. in 1978. She was honored by World Arts West with a Lifetime Achievement Award in June 2010 and received a “Sustained Achievement Award” by the Bay Area Isadora Duncan Award committee in March 2011. In 2015, she was awarded the Legacy Laureate Award from SVCreates, in Silicon Valley.
Hailed as “among the best of this second generation of Indian dancers,” Rasika Kumar is a Bharatanatyam performer and choreographer steeped in tradition but with contemporary sensibilities. Based in California’s Silicon Valley, Rasika actively pursues the art form as a soloist, a choreographer, and as Associate Artistic Director of the Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose.
Training- Rasika studied Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of her mother Mythili Kumar, Artistic Director of Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, California. She began her training at the age of four and performed her arangetram in 1996. Rasika has toured with and performed in many of Abhinaya Dance Company’s productions (1996-2000) with major roles in several of them. After moving to Boston for her undergraduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rasika organized, choreographed, and performed in various events in the greater Boston area as a member of MIT Natya. In 2004, Rasika traveled to Chennai and took advanced training under renowned teachers Prof. C.V. Chandrasekar and Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan. She continues intermittent training with abhinaya exponent, Smt. Bragha Bessell.
Since 2005, Rasika has been a featured soloist for many of Abhinaya’s recent productions (2005 – present) and has been choreographing solo and group pieces for Abhinaya since 2006. Her choreography has been featured of many of Abhinaya’s productions including Ritusamhara (2006), Poetic Splendor (2007), Prithvi (2007), Rivers: A Mystical Journey (2008), Nritya Sangati (2009), Jwala (2011), Gandhi (2012), Arjuna (2014), and Love Exquisite (2015). Additionally, Rasika has choreographed and performed several full length solo productions including Saatvika (2006), Dharma Yuddh (2008), Courage (2011 and 2013), and Maya – The Mystery of Krishna (2012).
Rasika’s choreography and performance have garnered attention from beyond the Indian dance community. “Varsha: the Rainy Season,” jointly choreographed by Rasika Kumar and Mythili Kumar for the company received a commission for the 2008 Ethnic Dance Festival. Additionally, “Prithvi Sooktam, ” choreographed by Rasika in 2007, was selected to perform at the 2010 Ethnic Dance Festival. The item “Gandhari’s Lament” has received critical acclaim as a “powerful”, “incisive,” and “impressive” piece of choreography. She was selected to perform her solo work for sjDANCEco’s Annual ChoreoProject Award in 2007, 2008, and 2010 and for the WestWave Dance Festival at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. She received the Arts Council/Silicon Valley Performing Arts Fellowship in 2008, when she began exploring new ways to make Bharatanatyam more accessible to contemporary audiences.
Rasika’s 2010 collaborative rhythmic arrangement with Franco Imperial of San Jose Taiko garnered the two companies an Isadora Duncan Award in the Music category (2011). The collaborative item, “Synergy,” was selected to be performed at both the 2011 and 2012 San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festivals where the “resulting technical proficiency and rhythmic texture of their [the companies’] collaboration blew the audience away”.
In 2014, Rasika won the Lakshmi Viswanathan Award from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in Chennai for her solo performance in the Chennai Margazhi season.
Malavika Walia- Director Junior Dance Company, Dancer, and Choreographer, Rhythms Composition & Nattuvangam
Malavika Walia is a senior company dancer, choreographer, and teacher, for the Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose. She is the daughter of Artistic Director Mythili Kumar and has performed in many of Abhinaya Dance Company’s productions since 1992, as well as toured with the company to India and around the U.S.A. Malavika has been performing nattuvangam for the Abhinaya Dance Company since 2000 for both its Bay Area productions and on tour. In a 2004 performance in Chennai, she was lauded by a critic as ‘the star of the show’ for her ‘precise, well-intoned nattuvangam’. She currently is one of the main nattuvanars for Abhinaya’s annual company productions, arangetrams, and Associate Artistic Director Rasika Kumar’s solo performances. She additionally has composed numerous jathis and choreographed items for solo and group performance.
Sindhu Natarajan (vocals, music composition & improvisations)
Sindhu Natarajan – vocal
Sindhu Natarajan is an accomplished vocalist in the South Indian classical music (Carnatic) tradition and hails from a family of musicians. She initially trained under her aunt, Smt. Vasanthi Kannan and later learned under her grandfather, late Sri P.V. Natarajan. She has also received advanced training from her other aunt, Smt Raji Gopalakrishnan. Sindhu has given several solo concerts and has provided vocal accompaniment for several arangetrams and for professional dancers in the Bay Area and throughout the US. Sindhu has also learned Bharatanatyam under Smt. Mythili Kumar since 1994. As a Senior Company Dancer & Teacher, she has performed in many of Abhinaya Dance Company’s productions, and has toured with the company to several US cities.
Sruti Sarathy (violin, lyric & improvisations)
Sruti Sarathy is a versatile artist in the South Indian classical violin tradition. She is trained in the Lalgudi style of Carnatic violin under Smt. Anuradha Sridhar, Director of Trinity Center for Music in the Bay Area. Sruti has performed with leading Indian classical musicians, and has performed in prestigious venues and festivals all over the world. Sruti recently composed and performed the original score for “GRID,” a percussive dance theater work (featured in the San Francisco World Percussive Arts festival) directed by Bruce Mui-Ghent. In 2016, Sruti was granted the Fulbright Scholarship by the U.S. Department of State to perform and research cross-genre violin technique in Carnatic Music. She is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Master’s Degree in French Literature.
Sruti is the recipient of many accolades and most recently has been awarded a Creative Arts Fund grant with other collaborators.
Vaishali Ramachandran (nattuvangam)
Vaishali Ramachandran – Vaishali Ramachandran has been a student, performer, and teacher of Bharatanatyam for over 20 years. She began her training at the age of four in Mumbai, then trained for 16 years in Bengaluru with Guru Dr. Padmaja Suresh. She has been training with Guru D. V. Prasanna Kumar for Nattuvangam. She has performed in many major dance festivals in India and USA and is a resident of Fremont California, USA, where she continues to teach and perform. She is currently the Administrative Manager & Company dancer at Abhinaya.
Srinath Bala (mridangam, kanjira and ghatam)
Srinath Bala was raised in Tamil Nadu, India. He trained under reputed leading gurus of India before migrating to the U.S. in the early 90s. From his experiences with various mentors, Srinath ultimately developed the ability to uniquely combine the Kanakku (Mathematical) and Naadam (Melodic) aspects of the Mridangam Instrument. Bala has been teaching South Indian percussion art forms for more than 25 years throughout the U.S. and India. After moving to California in 2015, Srinath and his wife started Vaadhya VidhyaaLayam, a program that imparts Indian Violin & Mridangam training to several dozens of students in San Jose, CA.
Prema Ramamurthy – Music Composition
Dr. Prema Ramamurthy is the senior most disciple of the renowned maestro M. Balamurali Krishna. Prema has been giving performances regularly over the radio and on television and is a top A Grade artist forAll India Radio. She is a renowned Carnatic music soloist with performances in leading institutions and festivals all over the world and has won several awards for her music accomplishments. As a leading accompanist for dance performances, she has also composed for numerous dance productions nationally and internationally. Audiences and critics have unanimously acknowledged her incredible talent and expertise as a dance vocalist & composer. Her wonderful creativity & amazing imagination, has allowed dancers to explore newer vistas in their choreographies. Prema Ramamurthy has been associated with Mythili Kumar since the 1970s.