August 15, 2014
Full frontal piercing eyes gaze at the audience when she breaks open the stage in her first presentation. Considered a young Indian dancer deserving of notice, Niveda Ramalingam proved her athletic skills o the opening night program of the multi-versed Drive East 2014 Festival at LaMama. Divided into five Bharatanatyam (south Indian classical form) dances, the program spotlighted Ms. Ramalingam’s physical dexterity and broad story telling skills.
Dressed in a flame orange outfit, the center portion fanned out in pleats revealing ankle cuffs full of bells over feet stained in red dye.
Most pronounced and stunning was her gulping use of space. Generally, contemporary traditional dancers execute complex footwork and hand gestures within a small radius. But, Ms. Ramalingam circumvents the whole stage in wide, low-to the-ground space-swallowing chasing steps.
Even though each piece featured a different choreographer, there were similarities in the expressive use of the face, eyebrows (they can move independently of each other) and solid foot slaps, powerful use of thighs. she drops effortlessly into wide, deep knee bends to the floor as well as plunging lunges and stark, animated stillness.
I the second entry, she executed several passages of technical dexterity that elicited applause from the audience. She's the Merrill Ashley of Indian dance-- for those of you who don't know, Merrill Ashley was considered one of the most technically dexterous NYCB dancers'.
Because of her strength, Ms. Ramalignam is particularly arresting when assuming the male or monster role. Her coquettish women are quite engaging, but they still require some finessing in the more subtle facial expressions.
No question, but she is a young artist to watch. Her technical skill is well formed, and her artistry is filling out.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis