Tandavam Events’ Radhika Rao Discusses Indian Classical Dance and ‘Trilochana’

Tandavam Events seeks to unite and elevate classical Indian dance schools and organizations across DC, Maryland, and Virginia

If you are not from the great sub-continent of India or do not have any Indian friends, you might be forgiven for not knowing that there is a healthy culture of Indian classical dance in the DMV, much of it in Fairfax County.

Dancer Sumi Rao. Photo by Siva Photography.
Dancer Sumi Rao. Photo by Siva Photography.

In an effort to make people in the area aware of the wealth of talent and knowledge in this region, Radhika Rao is stepping forward to make the public more aware of the beauty and intricacy of Indian dance. Rao and her older daughter, Kaavya, run an organization called Tandavam Events, which does everything from aiding people in finding the right dance school for their children to helping them prepare for the all-important “Arangetram” or dance debut, which marks the point where a dancer is ready to meet the public after years of preparation.

Since the Arangetram involves renting a hall, sending out invitations, planning a dinner, hiring an orchestra, hiring an expert to handle the lighting, and preparing outfits and makeup, Rao rightly compares it to planning a wedding.

Keep reading to learn more from Rao about Indian classical dance and Tandavam Events’ upcoming event featuring three local Indian dance schools.

Barbara Mackay: How many Indian dance schools would you estimate there are in Virginia?

Radhika Rao: Probably twelve to fifteen.

And how many students are in each one?

About one hundred.

Are they very young when they start classes?

They begin at first or second grade and go through high school.

Dancer Sumi Rao. Photo by Siva Photography.
Dancer Sumi Rao. Photo by Siva Photography.

Can you describe the elements of Indian classical dance?

There are three parts to the dance. One part is the drama…what is going on, what story the dancer is telling. The second part is the expression we bring to the drama. There are nine expressions we use, ranging from anger to shyness to wonder. And then there’s the footwork. All three have to be in harmony for the piece to be complete.

India is such a huge country. Do the regions share styles or stories?

We have eight classical dances that are recognized by the National Body of Music and Art. The south has four of them and we have the others in the north and east. Their details are different but they have the same basic elements.

I know you are planning a dance concert on April 28. Can you tell us about it?

We will be showcasing three dance schools in a program called Trilochana. The dances and their schools are Kuchipudi, which will be performed by Kalamandapam, of Fairfax; Bharatnatyam, which will be performed by Nrityanjali, of Chantilly; and Kathak by Lasya Dance Academy, also in Fairfax. All three schools have been teaching more than a decade and have a strong student body.

Trilochana: An Indian Classical Thematic Dance Presentation performs on April 28, 2019, from 3:30 to 5:30 pm at Lanier Middle School, 3801 Jermantown Road, Fairfax, VA. Tickets are $20 at the door (cash only) or $15 if reserved in advance by calling 571-989-0825 or going online.