Eastview student excels at classical Indian dance

Eastview High School 10th-grader Vibha Mavanji will perform in “Ritu-The Seasons,” which premieres Jan. 28. (Photo submitted)
Eastview High School 10th-grader Vibha Mavanji will perform in “Ritu-The Seasons,” which premieres Jan. 28. (Photo submitted)

An Eastview High School student is among a select group of talented young dancers who will be showcasing classical Indian dance at a performance later this month in St. Paul.

Vibha Mavanji, an Apple Valley resident and 10th-grader at Eastview, is set to perform in “Ritu-The Seasons” on Jan. 28 at the Anne Simley Theater at Hamline University.

Mavanji has been training in Indian classical dance for 11 years, since age 4.

“The first aspect of the art that drew me in was the costume,” she said. “While traveling in India, I visited quite a few relatives who were dancers themselves. One had a large portrait with this spectacular costume. At that moment, I knew I had to pursue the art just to wear that.

“Over time my motivation gravitated from the costume to a passion for the art itself.”

“Ritu-The Seasons,” winner of a Knight Foundation grant, is a production by St. Paul-based Kala Vandanam Dance Company, where Mavanji has been training under instructor Suchitra Sairam for seven years.

“Vibha is a technically vibrant dancer, and is quite fearless in her expressional dance,” Sairam said. “She has a palpable passion and reverence for the art, which shows both in her practice and performance.”

“Ritu-The Seasons” spotlights south Indian classical dance, and is inspired by the writing of 4th-century Sanskrit poet Kalidasa as well as Vivaldi’s 18th-century work “Le Quattro Stagioni,” with the aim of evoking the beauty of each of the six Indian seasons through dance.

Sairam said one goal of “Ritu-The Seasons” is to give the cast of young dancers, ranging in age from 13 to 18, exposure to all aspects of staging a performance — including production, fundraising and marketing.

“They are learning to manage and care for costumes and props, and also learning to do their own makeup and costuming,” Sairam said. “Our hair, makeup and costuming process prior to performance is quite time consuming and complex, and it is good for these young dancers to learn how to manage it themselves.”

Mavanji and other cast members went through three rounds of auditions for the show. Rehearsals began in August for five to nine hours a day. Since the summer they’ve been logging three to six hours each week in rehearsals.

Following the premiere Jan. 28, Kala Vandanam has planned three additional performances of “Ritu-The Seasons” throughout St. Paul in 2017. More information is at www.kalavandanam.com.