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NAYIKA : A DANCING GIRL is an exceptional production. Vaishnavi Suryaprakash’s outstanding solo performance mixes brilliant storytelling with wonderful Bharatanatyam dance and is accompanied by incredible musicians Marco Cher-Gibard and Bhairavi Raman.

Brilliantly written by Nithya Nagarajan and Liv Satchell, Nayika is a story of a thirteen-year-old dance student in a new school in Chennai, India. There is an enigmatic boy that she shyly views from afar and there are her dance classes where the guru teaches her about the different types of heroines in Indian mythology. Nayika translates as heroine, specifically one of the eight types of romantic heroine described in an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts. The connections between the play’s protagonist and the ancient heroines are subtly woven through the story. The arc progresses from scenes of exuberant schoolgirls learning to deal with nascent ideas, relationships and romance to a forceful statement about a survivor of violence reclaiming her voice and her power. Importantly, she internalises her guru’s lesson about female heroicism and this becomes a compelling feature of the narrative.

The music, dance and storytelling complement each other in an extraordinary manner. The music and dance realise feelings that would be difficult to put into words. The audience is immersed in emotions from the ethereal and haunting music. There is beauty and horror that is expressed Vaishnavi’s movements. It is an incredibly evocative world built through sound, gesture and activity.
One of the many aspects of this drama that works very effectively comes from when the guru explains in the after-school dance classes the meaning of different actions and poses. These concepts are then injected into dances later in the show to give a richer meaning and the audience a broader understanding of the performance. Rather than just admiring the beauty of the dance and the skill of the performer it enriches the story and leads to a better insight and awareness.

Further creative input from Marco Cher-Gibard who doubles as sound designer and composer. Set and costume designer is Keerthi Subramanyam. Lighting designer is Morgan Moroney. Dramaturg is S.Shakthidharan. Production dramaturg is Carissa Licciardello. Fight choreographer is Maria Tran. Creative producer is Zainab Syed. Creative consultant is Christopher Gurusamy. Stage manager is Tanya Leach. Photography by Brett Boardman.

NAYIKA : A DANCING GIRL  is playing at Belvoir Street Theatre until 19th May 2024. It is exceptional and an absorbing experience and is thoroughly recommended.



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