Leela School of Dance (N.C. Folklife Area)

  • Bharata Natyam (Indian classical dance)
  • Fayetteville, North Carolina

Based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the Leela School of Dance teaches one of India’s most ancient classical dance forms, Bharata Natyam, to aspiring young dancers. Director and dancer Asha Bala has taught classical dance since 1984, when she opened her first school in Mumbai. Trained herself by renowned gurus, Asha Bala has garnered worldwide recognition as both a dancer and an educator.

In Sanskrit, leela means the effortless interplay of the physical and the sublime, of power and beauty. As Indian classical dance is itself a form of prayer, dancers must become one with the dance itself. A 3,000-year-old tradition from South India, Bharata Natyam demands strength, coordination, posture, rhythm, and the alignment of mind and body in order to reach rasa, the sublime bliss for which all art strives. Bharata Natyam has two basic forms: Nritta, purely rhythmic movement with intricate footwork, and Nritya, which incorporates interpretative miming to tell the story of the song being sung. Today, Bharata Natyam has a global presence. With percussion by Asha Bala and singing by classical vocalist Smitha Prasad, dancers Partha Aji, Visrut Sudhakar, Tulsi Patel, and Reshma Goud carry this ancient language of movement forward in North Carolina.

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