Courtesy of Maanasa Nandigam

Illustrated through two traditional Indian arts — the narrative dance form Bharatnatyam and complex Carnatic music — “Shakti” is a celebration of womanhood and feminine strength.

On Thursday, April 25, Yale Kalaa and Yale Dhvani will be performing their second joint showcase at 7 p.m. in the Off Broadway Theater. Kalaa is a dance group that performs Bharatanatyam, an Indian dance form that includes rhythmic footwork and evocative expressions. Dhvani is dedicated to Carnatic and Hindustani Indian classical music. The production’s name means “strength” in Sanskrit, and the performance includes prominent women from Hindu mythology, including Draupadi, Mohini, Sita and Durga.

This is a theme that we all feel strongly about,” said Eesha Bodapati ’25, one of Kalaa’s co-captains. “We began thinking about all the powerful stories of women that we had grown up listening to in Hindu mythology, and we wanted to showcase these stories and how they inspire us in our own experiences as women.”

Anjal Jain ’26, a member of Kalaa and Dhvani, said that male characters from Hindu mythology often have more recognition than their women counterparts, so Kalaa and Dhvani wanted to shift the spotlight onto women who embodied the triumph of good over evil. 

According to Bodapati, curating the story for Kalaa’s dances takes months of planning. She said that the team dedicated the last few weeks to ensuring lighting, sound, marketing, design and other logistics were in order. 

This year, the performance includes six mythological stories about powerful women woven into a larger conversation between a mother and daughter. Last year, the groups’ annual showcase told the story of the Hindu god Lord Krishna. This year, they wanted to maintain the showcase’s narrative element while presenting something more understandable to audiences unfamiliar with Hindu mythology. 

Maanasa Nandigam ’25, co-captain of Kalaa and founder of Dhvani, said that the groups wanted the audience to feel “the absolute rawness of feminine power through both these ancient stories of women and women today.”

She said that incorporating the theme into Carnatic music required care and precision because Dhvani had to balance the structured style of the music with the nuances of womanhood they hoped to express. She said that because the show is so artistic, its choreography and composition demanded flexibility.

“The novel aspects of the music challenged our whole team’s musical ability,” she said. “But it’s been an absolutely exhilarating experience.”

For some of the showcase’s stories, Dhvani chose songs composed specifically for those tales. For other narratives, they were unable to borrow songs from the Indian classical repertoire. In these cases, they chose ragas, or musical scales, that they felt best aligned with the energy of certain dances. 

Nandigam worked with Dhvani’s veena and violin players Swathi Nachiar Manivannan GRD ’28

and Gautham Umasankar, a doctoral student in applied physics, to compose music for certain lyrics and rhythmic patterns, finalizing songs she said set a high standard for what Dhvani might produce in the future. 

Nandigam said that Dhvani curated and composed music to complement the emotions evoked by the dances. According to her, incorporating multiple vocalists into the show was challenging because so many of the singers are also participating in the dances. Nandigam herself is dancing in half the show’s pieces and singing in the other half. 

According to co-president of Kalaa and member of Dhvani, Maanasi Nair ’25, “It’s very challenging choreographing and composing at the same time for a showcase because the form of our music and dance depend on each other. However, navigating this complex process together have brought Kalaa and Dhvani very close together. We have put so much time and effort into creating an effective workflow that allows both of us to maximize our creativity and artistry.”

Both organizers said that preparations for both groups required a significant time commitment in the weeks leading up to the show. 

Kalaa practiced two to three days a week and Dhvani practiced almost every single day. During tech week, both groups rehearsed for three to four hours every night, working to ensure harmony between the music and dance. 

“We had moments when the music, sound, dance and light all came together so beautifully that we let out a collective ‘wow,’’’ Nandigam said of their recent rehearsals. 

According to Jain, the group’s diverse backgrounds in Bharatanatyam and Carnatic and Hindustani music made for a synthesis of experience and expertise that honors multiple Indian traditions. Along with other members, she expressed her excitement to share one aspect of her heritage with peers at Yale.

Bodapati said she looks forward to watching Thursday’s audience enjoy the performance that her teammates have worked so hard to bring to fruition. Nandigam added that watching the show come together cohesively in its intensity will be rewarding to witness.

“I can’t wait to show our friends and community what we’ve been working on and to feel the goosebumps and chills as we present our work on stage,” Nandigam said. “This will hands down be the best work Kalaa and Dhvani have put out there at Yale.”

While tickets have sold out, the show’s waitlist is still open and tickets are free.

Kamini Purushothaman covers Arts and New Haven. A first-year student in Trumbull College, she is majoring in History.