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Indian Dancer, BHHS Student, To Perform Solo Debut

Nina Vir, 15, a sophomore at BHHS, will make her classical Indian solo dance debut, a Bharata-Natyam Arangetram, at  an invitation-only performance tomorrow at the Torrance Cultural Art Center.

Vir, daughter of Vinetta and Jay Vir, has been studying the ancient art since she was 6, with well-known teacher Viji Pra-kash, at the Shakti School of Dance in Cheviot Hills.

Bharata-Natyam, one of the most important of the eight Indian classical styles of dance, originating from India’s temples, is practiced throughout the fourth of India, particularly in the Tanjavur region.

Vir, visiting India as a child,  “was drawn to the colors,” she said. Encouraged by her parents, she has continued her studies which “keep me connected to my culture and roots.”

To the accompaniment of 2,000-year-old music, Bharata- Natyam uses intricate hand gestures and dramatic facial expressions to tell it’s stories.

“It takes a while before you learn the dances,” Vir said. “You first have to learn a set of basic movements for every dance; and them move on to more complicated steps.”

The three-hour Bharata- Natyam Arangetam is a graduation of sorts. “It’s a really big deal,” says Vir who admits to practicing a lot over the summer.

Before an audience of family and friends, the performance will feature  a percussionist on the mridangam, a two-sided drum; a violinist, a flautist and a vocalist.

At BHHS, with an older brother who’s a junior, Vir is a JV cheerleader and an officer in the ASB.

Her friends who know of her studies are quick to equate it to Bollywood extravaganzas, Vir says.  “But its much more classical and based on religious rituals.”

Out of the temples, Bharata-Natyam is now performed solely on the stage. In the past, a dance offering was a part of the daily ritual and was the most important act of devotion, as is explained in the Indian sacred books: “no prayer, no offering is more agreeable to God.”

“Dancing has always been part of my life,” Vir said. “I definitely plan to continue.”

—Steve Simmons

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