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September 5, 2006 > Nrithyollasa Dance Academy graduates win gold at Prague

Nrithyollasa Dance Academy graduates win gold at Prague

by Praveena Raman

For the second year in a row, Fremont's Nrithyollasa Dance Academy graduates were awarded first place at the New Prague Dance Festival.  This year, Samantha Balasubramanian and Priya Shankar placed first in the Ethnic/Folkdance category at this international competition.  Last year, another graduate, Priya Vaidyanathan, placed first in the same category. 

The New Prague Dance Festival competition started in 1997 in Czechoslovakia to provide a venue for dance lovers from around the world to demonstrate their art form at an international level.  This competition showcases artistic productions ranging from ballet to contemporary to folk and world classical dances of different nationalities, languages and religions. It is open to private and amateur dance schools, groups and institutions without age limitation.  Held each year between July 1 and July 6, the competition is judged by a jury of renowned international representatives in the area of dance. In July 2006, about 400 participants from 30 different schools participated in this festival.  Samantha and Priya performed the Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form from South India. 

Bharatanatyam is a stylized dance with intricate rhythmic footwork where mudras (hand position), abhinaya (facial expressions) and padams (narrative dances) form the basis of a performance.  The dance is accompanied by the Carnatic music from South India usually performed by a live orchestra.  Dancers trained in Bharatanatyam are lifelong students of this art form.  Training starts at the tender age of 5 or 6; students graduate from the basic training stage between 15 to 18 years of age by performing their Arangetram, a two hour solo dance performance before a live audience. (An article on the Arangetram has been published in the March 7 2006 issue of Tri-City Voice and can be read at )

Priya and Samantha are disciples of Indumathy Ganesh, artistic director of Nrithyollasa Dance Academy who performed their Arangetram in 2004 and 2005, respectively.  Indumathy Ganesh is an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer with international recognition for her flawless rhythm, flowing grace, and powerful projections of various moods.  At her dance academy, founded in 1989 in Fremont, she not only provides intense training in Bharatanatyam but also teaches the theoretical aspects of classical dance and provides training in Nattuvangam or dance conducting.

The New Dance Festival consists not only of workshops and stage rehearsals before the competition but also provides city and more extensive countryside tours. This gives participants and their families a chance to take a break and enjoy the sights of historic Prague.  Samantha and Priya not only toured Prague but also Salzburg in Austria.  The Church of Our Lady Tyn in Old Town Square, Prague Castle in Prague and the Mozart Museum in Salzburg, Austria were some of the memorable places they visited.

The Church of Our Lady Tyn in Old Town Square was built in 1385.  The Square (Staromestske Namesti), with its ancient buildings and magnificent churches, is one of the most beautiful and historical sights in Europe.  Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world (570m long, on average 128 m wide, area 7.28 hectares). This complex, the seat of Czech kings throughout the ages, is comprised of many buildings, including the Gothic Saint Vitus Cathedral, several palaces, a monastery, museums & galleries, viewing towers, St. George's Basilica and the enchanting Golden Lane. The Gothic Saint Vitus Cathedral, spiritual symbol of the Czech state, was founded by Jan Lucembursky (John of Luxembourg) and his sons Karel and Jan Jindrich and took nearly six centuries to build. Construction started in 1344 by Mathias Arras and Petr Parler upon the site of a 10th century rotunda and the final phase ended during the years 1873-1929.

The Mozart Museum at Getreidegasse no. 9 in Salzburg, Austria, was where the Leopold Mozart family lived from 1747 to 1773. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born here on January 27, 1756. Rooms once occupied by the Mozart family now house a museum with exhibits that include Mozart's childhood violin, concert violin, clavichord, pianoforte, portraits and correspondence of the Mozart family

As Samantha put it, "Competing in Prague was an unforgettable experience for me, mainly because of the chance to see and meet so many talented dancers from all over the world. It was also great to be able to introduce the art of Bharatanatyam to such a welcoming and friendly crowd of people."

More information on the New Prague Dance Festival can be found at 

For information about Nrithyollasa Dance Academy go to 

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