• Vaishnavi Suryaprakash in Nayika Rehearsal at Belvoir. Photo Brett Boardman.
    Vaishnavi Suryaprakash in Nayika Rehearsal at Belvoir. Photo Brett Boardman.

This week Belvoir presents the world premiere of Nayika (A Dancing Girl), a breathtaking solo performance melding storytelling, live music and Bharatanatyam dance, made for the unique talents of Helpmann Award-winner Vaishnavi Suryaprakash (Counting and Cracking) who plays the role of the Girl/Narrator.

Co-created and co-directed by Nithya Nagarajan (Assistant Director of Jungle and the Sea) and Liv Satchell (The Grief Trilogy) this coming-of-age story of love and resistance is filled with joy, moments of melancholy and a whole lot of heart.

A chance remark by an old friend in Sydney takes a woman back to her teenage years: living alone, by the sea in Chennai. She’s preparing for her debut dance recital, her Arangetram. She’s falling in love too! But young love unravels, and the memories flooding back take on a power of their own...

This is a play about the profound ways indelible trauma shapes you, and the hope and defiance of taking back control.

“Vaishnavi is another treasure of the Belvoir stage, and this piece will enhance her reputation as a performer of skill and nuance, I’m sure. It’s astonishing how this work can be simultaneously rhapsodic and confronting. The dance is hypnotic, the music is spine-tingling, and the story is haunting and profound,” said Belvoir Artistic Director Eamon Flack.


Nayika Rehearsal at Belvoir (Nithya Nagarajan, Liv Satchell, Vaishnavi Suryaprakash). Photo Brett Boardman.

Nithya Nagarajan and Liv Satchell (co-creators and co-directors) of Nayika (A Dancing Girl) answer some questions for Dance Australia below:

Why is dance so pivotal to the narrative of this work? 

Indian neo-classical dance is central to the form of this work. NAYIKA: A Dancing Girl offers a provocative take on the Varnam - the centrepiece of a Bharatanatyam recital - as in takes the structure of the Varnam and the way that it pieces together story, and suffuses that with a story that reclaims the female protagonist's agency instead of how they are typically rendered within these formats. We are exploring how women are conditioned by culture, and how we, in turn might condition culture. 


Nithya Nagarajan in Nayika Rehearsal at Belvoir. Photo Brett Boardman.

What is Bharatanatyam Dance? What makes it special?

Bharatanatyam is a neo-classical Indian dance form, an invention of the 1930s re-visioned from the temple dance tradition of Sadir, practiced by hereditary matriarchal lineages of Devadasis or temple dancers and courtesans. Today, Bharatantyam is one of the largest cultural exports of the subcontinent, and is often viewed as a 'rite of passage' for young girls. It combines the elements of Nritta (pure dance), Natya (rhythm and mime) and Abhinaya (storytelling). Bharatanatyam is often performed by a solo female performer and accompanied by a live orchestra.


Vaishnavi Suryaprakash in Nayika Rehearsal at Belvoir. Photo Brett Boardman.

What are you hoping audiences will get out of this show? 

The access into the interiority of our protagonist’s world means you get to reckon with what micro-personal resistance actually looks, feels, sounds, smells and tastes like and exactly why it is macro-political. We drop into the psyche of narrator so deeply that audiences probably will be reeling coming out of it. We hope this reeling is circular, generative, life-affirming, and has audiences thinking seriously about accountability in our communities. 

Nayika at Belvoir


Upstairs Theatre, Belvoir St Theatre
Dates: 30 April – 19 May 2024
Tickets: https://belvoir.com.au/productions/nayika/ or (02) 9699 3444

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