Exotic Taste of India for Local Youngsters

Laya Rajan

For Westchester County youngsters lucky enough to be regular patrons of the Peekskill Field Library’s exceptional Junior Room, perhaps it was just another special event. But for the adults present at the recently presented program of traditional dances of India, there was a sense that something truly extraordinary was on display. On the little stage where Junior Room director, Sara Bentley, seems to have an endless supply of rich offerings for the youth of the community, the enthusiastic audience was treated to the dance brilliance of Laya Rajan. Miss Rajan, a freshman at Yorktown High School, presented a stunning solo dance program introducing the assembled to the rich variations of Indian dance. It would be a memorable performance for which she was clearly well-trained by Guru, Nalini Rau, who founded the tri-state area’s Natya Anubhava Academy of Classical Dance in 1993.

Beautifully costumed in elegant traditional Indian dress, she was adorned in lavish teal-colored silk delicately threaded with gold. The ornate jeweled headdress was a showpiece worthy of a museum collection. Sparkling gold bracelets and ankle bells added to the beauty and mystery of every well-choreographed moment in the performance that would follow.

Worthy of special note was the way in which Rajan structured the program to be of particular value and interest to the youthful audience. She carefully explained the various types of traditional dances she would perform: dances with religious significance, story-dances that relate ancient legends, and finally dances of free expression. In addition, Miss Rajan emphasized the value of dance as a channel for youthful energies that can steer youngsters away from the use of illicit drugs. As a matter of fact, Rajan has gone one step further toward guiding young people away from substance abuse by developing the related website, www.DanceAgainstDrugs.org, and she even concluded her spirit-filled program with inspiring words from the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

The dances themselves were gracefully intricate, and of such complexity that one would have to think of a concert pianist remembering an entire piano concerto in order to have an adequate analogy describing the intense memory work that must accompany such a highly specific dance program. (Laya, by the way, not only plays violin, but also has studied classical piano since the age of 5, and has even performed at Steinway Hall in New York). The choreography featured a seemingly endless array of exotically beautiful postures, gestures, graceful moves and unique movements of fingers and limbs that were nothing short of amazing. The many young children present looked up in appropriate wonder at this dazzling display. If they were thinking, “I wish I could do that,” they may soon have that chance. Miss Rajan, in her continuing effort to reach out with her time and talent, will start the New Year with special dance workshops for the kids, and you will never guess where. Yes, that’s right! It will be yet another special event at the Field Library Junior Room.

For further information, contact the Field Library at 914-737-0521.

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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