Traditional Indian Dancer Visits Duke

 

Before she toured the world as a professional dancer, Mythili Prakash tottered onto the dance floor at age three, a precocious young student of her mother’s Los Angeles dance school.

Even then, Prakash wasn’t new to dance. Her mother Viji Prakash toured the world while pregnant with Mythili, performing the classical Indian art form she would soon pass on to her daughter.

“I was born into this dance environment, and I loved dancing from the very beginning,” Prakash said. A visiting artist with the Duke Dance Program, Prakash has worked with student dancers on campus this spring to share her love for Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form originating in South India.

“Even though it has very ancient origins, it’s also a contemporary and dynamic art form that’s continuing to develop today,” Prakash said, describing the dance as visual poetry that encompasses the aesthetic, the symbolic and the spiritual.

Prakash contributes to the art form’s development with her own choreography, pulling inspiration from Indian mythology. Bharatanatyam Repertory student dancers will perform Prakash’s choreography at the Dance Program's mainstage concert, ChoreoLab, on April 14th and 15th.

“Several Indian-American students come to Duke with a specialized level of training in Bharatanatyam dance,” said Dance Program director Purnima Shah. “This residency will enrich their repertoire, while at the same time, provide finesse in their technical skills and aesthetic presentation of staged work.”

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Prakash also performed a dance at Duke this month titled Devi, symbolizing the Indian goddess known as “the universal mother,” a nurturing but fierce warrior who represents the creative energy of the universe.

As a leading exponent of Bharatanatyam, Prakash continues to share her art form with mainstream audiences all over the world. “It’s an incredible journey,” she said. “You never stop learning.”


In addition to Prakash's residency in Bharatanatyam dance, the Duke Dance Program hosted her solo performance at the Kirby Horton Hall, Sarah P. Duke Gardens on March 4th with support from the Duke India Initiative, Duke Center for International and Global Studies and Global Asia Initiative.