About Us Contact Us Help




Lokvani Talks To Latha Edavalath

Ranjani Saigal

Click here to buy tickets for Navavidha Bhakti

Latha Edavalath  serves as the Founder and Principal of Lasya college of music and dance, affiliated to the Indira Kala Sangeetha University, which provides Undergraduate, Post graduate and Diploma courses in dance, recognized not only in India but internationally. She mastered the dance forms Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kuchuppudi from Kerala Kalamandalam and is a Post Graduate in Bharatanatyam from Indira kala Sangeetha University. She is currently working on her PhD thesis combining the folk art form 'Theyyam' and Bharatanatyam (Chathurvidha Abhinaya). She has given  performances all over India, Doordarshan, Ujjain Kumbamela, Surya Dance festival and has many students all over the world. She has conducted many dance workshops and published articles on dance. She has choreographed many dance pieces in the traditional 'Margam' . The dance ballets composed, choreographed and performed by her are widely appreciated by the public and press. 

How did you get into Bharatanatyam?

When I was 8 years old, after watching a dance performance by a relative of mine, I was so attracted to it that I began my dance studies with Kambrath Madhavan Master in Payyanur, Kerala.  At age 9, I performed my first Bharatanatyam dance on stage. After watching my performance, my father's maternal uncle at that time, suggested that I continue my dance studies and pursue further studies at Kerala Kalamandalam, a premier institution for dance and music in Kerala. I always kept that advice as a burning desire in my heart and finally joined Kerala Kalamandalam in the year 1988 where I finished my Diploma in the year 1992 in three South Indian classical dance form, Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, and Kuchipudi. After completing my studies, I started teaching, choreographing and performing dance recitals. I completed my Masters in Bharatanatyam from Indira Kala Sangeeta University and I am currently doing my Ph.D in Bharatanatyam in the same University.

You are the principal of a dance college. What level of learning do you expect for a student to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Bharatanatyam? Other than dance what subjects need to be learned to get a degree?

Yes, currently I am the Principal of Lasya College of Music and Dance in Pilathara, Kannur Dt, Kerala. The institution conducts 3-year Bachelors degree and Diploma courses in Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music and Mridangam. Masters degree program is conducted for Bharatanatyam only. To graduate in Bharatanatyam, apart from theory and practicals in Bharatanatyam, the student must learn Carnatic music, English and Hindi Language and literature as subsidiary subjects. The students should have completed 12th grade to join the course and must pass an interview process to get selected. On a typical day, classes start at 5:30 am with music practice followed by yoga and exercise. The main classes begin at 9:30 am and continue till 3:30 pm, where dance and music theory and practices are taught along with subsidiary subjects.

What motivated you to create the production ‘Navavidha Bhakti’?

I have done many dance ballet productions and also choreographed solo items. When Vision Aid contacted me for a new dance show for their fundraiser, I was open to new ideas and suggestions that the people here will enjoy. The theme ‘Navavidha Bhakti’ was suggested by some dancers here and I thought it would be an interesting subject to work on. Also saint Thyagaraja and Maharaja Swathi Thirunal have created music compositions on Navavidha bhakti. But to produce an interesting dance ballet along with good music and lyrics, I had to work on the story and the narration to come up with the production. I thought this was an exciting theme for me to work on and I did my research into the subject and came up with a story line. Productions like these are very motivating and also help expand my knowledge on various themes.

Could you describe the production for us?

In this production, I am trying to convey the principle that Bhakti or ultimate devotion to God will lead us, human beings, from evil to goodness. Srimad Bhagavata and the Vishnu Purana have prescribed nine pathways to devotion. To portray this theme, I have used 9 different stories from the Puranas.  The first bhakti is called ‘Sravanam’ (hearing) which is the story about Bhakta Prahlada, where Prahlada , born in the  Asura clan, hearing Narayana mantra in his mother’s womb becomes an ardent devotee of Lord Narayana. The second bhakti, 'Keertanam' (singing), is the story about Melpathur Bhattathiri, the author of ‘Narayaneeyam’. The third bhakti, ‘Smaranam’ (remembrance) is the story of Gajendramoksha. The fourth Bhakti called ‘Padasevanam’ (serving at the Lord’s feet) describes Akrura’s devotion towards Lord Krishna. The fifth story ‘Archanam’ (worship) is about Sri Krishna Thulabharam. ‘Vandanam’ (prostration), the sixth bhakti, portrays “Akshayapatra’, from the epic Mahabharatha. The seventh is ‘Dasyam’ (serving) which shows the love of Lord Krishna of Guruvayoor towards his devotee Manjula. ‘Sakhyam’, (friendship) the eighth story depicts the friendship and love between Lord Krishna and his childhood friend Kuchela.  Lastly, ‘Atmanivedanam’ (complete surrender of the Self), depicts Radha’s intense love and loyalty towards Lord Krishna.

What about the music that you’re using for the production?

As I said earlier, there are great compositions by saint Thyagaraja and Swathi Thirunal Maharaja on Navavidhabhakti. But to match the theme and story line for this production, my sister, Vidyalakshmi and I wrote the lyrics and the music composition is by my flutist Mr. Jayaprakash Kannur. We have also included some verses from Narayaneeyam and other Shlokas to match the theme. So basically the music and dance choreography have been specially created for this production.

Can you describe the experience of working with dancers in New England area?

I am totally impressed by the enthusiasm and interest shown by the dancers participating in the production. I have also had the opportunity to meet many talented dance teachers and skilled young dancers from this area. Some of them are senior to me but I am humbled by their respect towards me and their co-operation for this production. I learned that most of the dancers have a full time job and some have small kids but they have made time to attend practice session that sometime lasts until 11.00 pm on weeknights!  Also, high school students with their busy schedule have adjusted their activities and made it to the practices. I’m very much impressed to see the dedication these dancers have shown towards this production.
When all the action is in Chennai and major cities what inspired you to stay put right in your native place and found a college to your passion?

My aim was to impart my knowledge to my people in my hometown. Many people had advised me to move to Chennai where there are many opportunities for artists. But my husband and I decided to stay in our hometown and establish Lasya College, which is a realization of our efforts. When my students win prizes in state level dance competitions or when my choreography is accepted and appreciated by the public I have enjoyed that satisfaction and realized that my decision to work in my hometown was the right thing to do. Now we have students coming from other states and a few students from other countries. This opportunity to collaborate with local dancers here and work with Vision Aid also confirms that it was a good decision.

Through this production you are giving a lot of exposure to the musicians, the costumer and the crew that has stayed with you all through your career. How do you feel about it?

I’m blessed to have a lot of talented artists around me to work with me. I believe, that a joint venture with the co-operation of such talents is successful. So far, the dancers have given me very good feed back about the music for the production. They love the sound effects and the wonderful voice of the vocalist ‘Sangeetharatnam’ Mr. C. Ramachandran accompanied by Mr. Mukkam Salim on Mridangam, Mr. Santhosh Kannur on Rhythm pad, Mr.Trichur Muralikrishna on the Veena, Keyboard by Mr. Nithyaprakash and Mr.Soman and Ghatam by Mr. Santhosh. The flutist Mr. Jayaprakash Kannur composed the music and Mr.Thamban Kambrath worked as an adviser to this production.

Any message to young dancers?

Art is a medium to lead humans to goodness and happiness. I thank Lokvani for all the encouragement and would request them to give similar encouragement to all the local artists. I would say this to artists and dancers - hard work and a humble nature will always take them to great heights. I hope your readers will continue to give support and encouragement to charitable organizations like Vision-Aid who serve the needy along with encouraging traditional dance forms.

Click here to buy tickets for Navavidha Bhakti

Bookmark and Share |

You may also access this article through our web-site http://www.lokvani.com/

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Copyrights Help