Navatman completes one decade of Drive East, a festival that brings various artists of different Indian performing arts genres into the most ambitious—and lauded—congregations of Indian classical music and dance outside of India. In this tenth year of the festival, Drive East delves deep to understand ‘What it actually means to be a conscious artist’. We will be hosting 14 performances that showcase the diverse arts of India and the diaspora, from BharataNatyam inspired by 21st century novels to Carnatic theater in the tradition of Shakespearean plays, and from veena to sufi vocals to piano.
Drive East 2021 will be held in a hybrid format blending live theater with an online broadcast to allow for a global artist line-up and audience amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Artists evolve as we move forward in our careers; this year, we ask our artists to consider what it means to be a “conscious artist.” There is no universal answer, as each artist focuses on a myriad of aspects related to their performing art, such as sharing their choreography process to new artists, preserving lineage and traditions, opening up traditions that are normally closed off. What is consistent, however, is that conscious artists are always thinking about how they will impact the field around them, and why their contribution to the tradition of the form is valuable. Drive East 2021 explores what becoming a conscious artist looks like, poses myriad questions of artists and audiences, and explores the many paths artists can take to distill the vision of growth and sustainability into action. (Pictured above: KalaisanKalaichelvan.
Some of the highlights include Mumbai-based VaibhavArekar, one of the leading male BharataNatyam soloists today, who will be presenting “Upanishads.” New York based Michael Harrison, a composer and pianist who performs original and traditional North Indian classical music on the piano. Harrison earned international recognition when “Revelation,” his 75-minute work for piano, was selected as one of the Best Classical Recordings of the Year by The New York Times, The Boston Globe and TimeOut New York, and “Just Constellations” was selected in NPR’s Best 100 SONGS OF 2020.
Harrison will be accompanied by the dynamic tabla artist Nittin Mitta, whose tabla playing is featured in Oscar award-winning short films and who has joined forces with Grammy nominated Indian and Western artists. Bay Area-based premier Odissi institution and company Guru Shradha, established by NiharikaMohanty, a disciple of the legendary Padma Vibhushan KelucharanMohapatra, from whose blessing Guru Shadha was born. A number of rare art forms are featured at Drive East this year, including concerts by Palo Alto-based GuhanVenkataraman accompanied by his brother VigneshVenkataraman, who will present the veena, a highly specialized musical art form performed by a select group of artists around the world.
The Chennai based Madras Players, the old English theater company in India with a track record of 220+ productions over 65 years, have been among the pioneers in showcasing Indian writing on stage. Here, they will present “Trinity,” a first-of-its kind musical play that leverages live Carnatic music to weave a story about three legendary music composers: Saint Thyagaraja, MuthuswamiDikshitar and ShyamaSastri. Arjun T.V. and team, based in Kerala, India, will take audiences into the rare world of kalaripayattu martial arts, while narrating the history of the form along with contemporary significance and showing martial arts choreographies involving various weapons.
Additional artists and performers for Drive East include: BharataNatyam solo by AishwaryaBalasubramanian (New Hampshire), sufi vocals by Sarvpreet Singh (Mumbai), a BharataNatyam group performance by Navatman Dance Company (New York City), a Koodiyattam solo by KalamandalamPrasanthi (Kerala), BharataNatyam solo by KalaisanKalaichelvan (Canada), sitar by RishabRikhiram Sharma (New York City), and BharataNatyam drama by Ganesh Vasudeva & Dancers (San Francisco), and Hindustani vocals showcasing Rabindrasangeet by SmitaGuha and team (New York City). Drive East is produced through Navatman, Inc. inpartnership with APEtech.
Navatman, Inc., led by Co- Artistic Directors Sridhar Shanmugam and SahasraSambamoorthi, is a performing arts organization that empowers the individual to nurture his or her personal evolution through interactions with the Indian classical arts. Founded with an eye towards creating a home for the Indian classical performing arts in NYC, Navatman is best known for our Manhattan-based and online classes, critically acclaimed productions, dynamic dance company, stellar music ensemble, multi-year live and online Mahabharata production, and Drive East – a week long collaborative festival celebrating our mission.
Co-Director Sridhar Shanmugam received training at the Kalakshetra School of Dance — one of the most prestigious schools of dance in India — and his later training in Rangoli painting, modern and post-modern dance, acting, choreography, stage lighting, theatre and stage technique. For many years he toured internationally as the legendary dancer choreographer Chandralekha’s primary male artist and later worked with such famous artists as Pina Bausch, Suzanna Linke, Philip Glass and countless others, earning awards and accolades from the governments of India, Great Britain and Italy. He has taught extensively and conducted workshops at several leading institutions including Columbia University, New York University and the Brooklyn Museum of Arts.
He maintains relationships with many of the top arts foundations such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center by serving on their boards and panels. As choreographer, teacher, dancer and director, Co-Director SahasraSambamoorthi’s experience being born and raised in the diaspora only serves to widen her ability to connect with both Indian and non-Indian audiences. She has earned accolades and scholarships from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts Folk Arts Apprenticeship, and is seen by many as a trailblazer forging a new understanding of South Asian arts in the United States. Sambamoorthi is the artistic director of Navatman Dance, an internationally touring Indian classical dance company Celebrating Indian Culture, Miss/Mrs/Teen India USA Held IN New Jersey