Little Theatre, Library Bldg, 2 Queens Drive, Lower Hutt

02/07/2021 - 04/07/2021

Production Details

Mudra Dance Company Presents

Navarasa: Nine Emotions 

A spectacular dance work exploring primal human emotions.

Choreographed and produced by Vivek Kinra, and performed by the Mudra Dance Company.

The acclaimed Mudra Dance Company, founded by Vivek Kinra, return to the stage with the inspiring and emotive production of Navarasa: Nine Emotions.

 Navarasa will be a kaleidoscope of motion, colour, music, mime, and rhythm. The central piece of this new dance work explores the primal human emotions through the classical Indian dance form, Bharata Natyam. 

 Navarasa means Nine Emotions; Nava meaning nine, and Rasa meaning emotions. The nine emotions are Shringara (Love), Hasya (Laughter), Karuna (Compassion), Raudra (Anger), Veera (Courage), Bhayanaka (Fear), Beebhatsya (Disgust), Adbhuta (Wonder), and Shanta (Tranquility).

 These nine emotions are the foundation from which the Indian classical traditions of dance, music, theatre, art, and literature evolved. The concept of Navarasa continues to be the backbone of these various traditions, even in their contemporary forms.

 Rasa is in everything, or better yet, everything has Rasa. Rasa is the invisible substance that gives life its meaning. Rasa is also the state of artistic ecstasy. When the spectators get completely absorbed in the dance and experience a state where they are beyond the realm of the five senses – they experience Rasa. 

 The remainder of this production is choreographed to the music compositions of the great Oottukkaadu Venkata Kavi. Venkata Kavi was a widely renowned South Indian composer from the 18th century who composed hundreds of musical pieces in Sanskrit and Tamil. He is considered to be one of the pioneering composers in Indian classical Carnatic music. Venkata Kavi’s compositions are characterized by extremely rhythmic patterns intertwined with the music. His compositions showcased in Navarasa praise the Hindu deity Krishna, affectionately referred to as the “Dark Lord”.

 The presentation of Navarasa will be a significant work in the celebrated and illustrious career of Vivek Kinra. Kinra is acclaimed both nationally and internationally as an exemplary exponent of Bharata Natyam. The dances highlight Kinra’s choreography which combines innovative and traditional elements of this classical dance form.

 Mudra Dance Company will be working with the Kurinchi Kumaran Temple to assist them in fundraising for their activities through this performance of Navarasa. The Temple is situated in Newlands, Wellington and is a valuable institution in preserving and promoting Indian social, cultural and religious values in New Zealand.

 Characterized by beauty and charmMudra Dance Company is a visual feast of brilliant sari colours, traditional headdresses of braids and flowers, and the sparkle of gorgeous jewellery. Navarasa will excite the audience with fast-moving and emotive dance pieces that showcase the incredible talent of this highly regarded dance company.

Mudra Dance Company will be working with the Kurinchi Kumaran Temple to assist them in fundraising for their activities through this performance of Navarasa. The Temple is situated in Newlands, Wellington and is a valuable institution in preserving and promoting Indian social, cultural and religious values in New Zealand.

 Characterized by beauty and charmMudra Dance Company is a visual feast of brilliant sari colours, traditional headdresses of braids and flowers, and the sparkle of gorgeous jewellery. Navarasa will excite the audience with fast-moving and emotive dance pieces that showcase the incredible talent of this highly regarded dance company.


Artists              Mudra Dance Company

Venue              Lower Hutt Little Theatre

Date/Time       July 2 Friday 7:30pm

                          July 3 Saturday 7:30pm          

                          July 4 Sunday 4:00pm

                        Duration 2 hours including an intermission of 20 minutes

Choreographed and produced by Vivek Kinra, and performed by the Mudra Dance Company.

Indian classical dance , Dance ,

120 Mins

This cosmic dance

Review by Lyne Pringle 05th Jul 2021

Mudra Dance Company, under the artistic directorship of Vivek Kinra, has been a jewel in the cultural landscape of Wellington for 31 auspicious years. This is cause for celebration.

The classical Indian dance form of Bharata Natyam is unrelenting in its demands and vast in its expressive capacity; it is lovingly and expertly served by Sri Vivek Kinra.

In this production, the central work focuses on Navarasa – the nine emotions which define the emotional landscape of Bharata Natyam. The dancers shimmer like the stars of Matariki: They are dazzling creatures: bells adorn ankles, gorgeously coloured silk costumes have multiple layers, flowers adorn the hair, hands and feet are painted vibrant red to accent their importance, eyes are ringed with kohl, the nose and ears are bejeweled.  Equally dazzling is Kinra’s expert choreography.

Within the meticulously decorated frame of the stage – a  large statue of  the god Shiva draped in garlands, a banner of elephants across the front and threads made from flowers hanging on either side – the magic unfolds.

With a  couple of exceptions Kinra chooses to have seven dancers on stage, which yields unceasing possibilities in terms of form and structure within each dance.
Moving from symmetry, with a central soloist and three dancers on either side, to asymmetry with dancers in groups of three and four. It is as if Kinra is bending space when the dancers cross through each other, move in unison and then mirror each other.  Perhaps Lord Shiva is dancing the whole into creation in front of our eyes, atoms coupling parting and joining once again: this cosmic dance, based on a complete understanding of Bharat Natyam. Flurries of intricate rhythms surge forward  and retreat, then the dancers luxuriate in the realm of gestural mudras. They depict multiple characters and emotional states. Every part of the body, dances with precision.

It is an exhilarating and masterful display of choreographic skill.

The core members of the company are Banu Siva, Leeshma Srirankanathan, Shrinidhi Bharadwaj, Kalyani Dixit, Krisha Narayan, Esther McCreadie, Deepika Sundar, Gayathiri Ganeshan, Lekha Sankar, Mahita Gottumukkala, Rhea Homroy, Shruthi Bahirathan and Harini Shanthakumar. These dancers, some of whom have professional lives, or are in full time study or living in other cities,  still manage to achieve the required level of excellence. This commitment from the company dancers and their leader is humbling and inspiring. Many of them perform exceptional solos throughout the evening. Banu Siva steps forward in Kuzhal Oothi to embody an enchanted Gopi dazzled by the beauty of Lord Krishna.

Younger members of the Mudra Dance Company also appear during the evening. We see their burgeoning talent nurtured and shining.

At the start of each dance Vivek Kinra steps up from the audience to express, with meticulous gestures, the essence of what will follow.  At one point the voice of the young narrator says ‘Lord Krishna is without beginning or end. He has an exulted position’.
This could be a summary of Kinra’s unceasing action and vision.  The resonance of the performance ripples out from the Mudra Dance Company into the Indian community. They support and are supported by, the richly nuanced cultural practice of Bharata Natyam.

Then, lucky us, these ripples spread out into the wider Wellington community.

(For an excellent review of the work and the rich cultural context of this practice by Jennifer Shennan please see



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A shining beacon in the city’s annual dance program

Review by Jennifer Shennan 05th Jul 2021

For over 30 years Shri Vivek Kinra has been teaching Bharata Natyam in Wellington, at Mudra Dance Academy. There have been hundreds of pupils over the decades, many reaching advanced level and performing the arengetram, two-hour solo recital, that marks their professional debut. Others have arrived more recently in New Zealand and are of Indian, Sri Lankan or Fijian origin. One is of Anglo-Irish descent, proving anyone could be in if prepared to do the work.

Kinra draws on this pool of talent to form Mudra Dance Company, presenting traditional and new works in seasons that have become a shining beacon in the city’s annual dance program. The technique and expression from each performer is always delivered with the assured musicality that is built in to Bharata Natyam from young pupils’ first class (5 year olds have been known to weep at the door of the Academy since pupils are not accepted until the age of six).

Kinra choreographs and directs these seasons but announced his own retirement from performing in 2015. Fortunately for us he continues to perform mimed cameos of each choreography, by way of narrated introduction to the themes and moods to expect. These little jewels are like dances you can hold in your hand, and are alone worth the time and ticket price. His own training was at Kalakshetra, in Chennai, where he still maintains strong connections, and works with colleagues, Gayatri Lakshmanan chief among them, and the musicians who play the compositions recorded on Kinra’s annual visits to India.

Of the eight items on the program, six are choreographed by Kinra. The main one, Navarasa, which translates as Nine Emotions, lends its name to the whole program. 

It is a stunning depiction of the gamut of valour, love, wonder, amusement, disgust, anger, fear, compassion and benevolence as experienced by the Mother Goddess Meenakshi in various encounters with gods, demons, humans and animals both tame and wild. In Tamil sung poetry, it is, as I was expecting, a miniature masterpiece.

 In its mimed prologue, there was a sudden dying of the light. Kinra continued in the dark but knew it would be better if we could see him. A voice cried out for the gods to send light, which will have shaken awake the lighting technician to do as bid, and all was well. Was this part of the choreography all along? A nod to the Covid year that has darkened so many dance stages around the world? Could have been, should have been. You just have to turn the light back on and carry on as before. Vaccines and danced prayers will see us through.

Another item, this time in Sanskrit, is the Shlokas from Shri Krishna Karnamritam. The intoxicating beauty of this god is depicted through musk paste on his forehead, a jewel on his chest, a pearl at the tip of his nose, bracelets, sandalwood paste and a pearl necklace. But wait, there’s more. A herd of cows, a flock of peacocks, dark clouds and strikes of lightning. The piece ends in a dance about dancing—high sophistication this. The Ras Leela is a renowned depiction of ecstasy, usually performed with sticks that percussively mark the beat and interweaving positions of the dancers. Here subtle handclaps were substituted for sticks and it was poignant to hear a swelling response that had a number of the audience gently joining in that handclapping.  

I first saw a Ras Leela danced by a large group from the Indian community at the first Pacific Arts Festival in Suva in 1972 (when Kinra was a babe in arms). Performed by 100 dancers out of doors, it was staged by the artists based at the Indian Cultural Centre in Fiji, five musicians and dancers resident in a full-time program for two years at a time, funded by ICCR from India. A short while later Professor Jenny McLeod brought those artists to Victoria University for a memorable intensive workshop at the School of Music. Political events in Fiji followed, the Centre was closed, and the next time I visited Suva it was a sorry sight to see the once vibrant place now empty and derelict with doors and windows creaking on their hinges and banging open in the wind. Life goes on but it’s hard to claim that all of history is progress. 

There is a long and interesting history of Indian dance in New Zealand—beginning with Sivaram’s and Louise Lightfoot’s visit in 1950s, Liong Xi in 1960s, Amala Devi in 1970, the Balachandrans, Chandrabhanu, Kanan Deobhakta, two astonishing visits by Kathakali dance theatre, and there are others. Fortunately for audiences who wish to deepen their appreciation of the art, there is a vast literature on the subject. Two leading scholars of the field, Dr Kapila Vatsyayan and Dr Sunhil Kothari, have died recently, but were both aware of Kinra’s work here in New Zealand, in the world map of dance.

There was an exuberant cadence to the performance in the final Thillana, choreographed by the late Rukmini Devi, founder of Kalakshetra. (She too once visited New Zealand, as guest of the Theosophical Society). Mudra’s line-up of radiantly costumed and bejewelled dancers was a joy to the capacity audience. It is not to demote any of their previous memorable seasons to mark Navarasa as their strongest choreography yet.


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A rare exploration of the inner landscape

Review by Donna Banicevich Gera 05th Jul 2021

It’s a cold night in the Hutt Valley as we gather in the foyer of the Lower Hutt Little Theatre, anticipation mounting, waiting for the opening of Mudra Dance Company’s latest production ‘Navarasa’. The delicious aroma of Indian treats fills the room.

The performance, beautifully choreographed and produced by Vivek Kinra, explores nine primal human emotions. Kinra appears to be a master teacher with a most generous heart, sharing a lifetime of wisdom with his dancers. His teaching comes shining through with skilled professionalism and precise movement.

The emotions the show expresses through dance are love (Shringara), laughter (Hasya), compassion (Karuna), anger (Raudra), valour (Veera), fear (Bhayanaka), disgust (Beebhatsya), wonder (Adbhuta), and tranquillity (Shanta). 

The music, composed by Venkata Kavi, the outstanding South Indian composer from the 18th century, is uplifting. You can tune into this work and witness something deeply emotional playing out before your very eyes on the stage.

From the dancers there is a delicate balance recognised that hovers between skilled craftmanship and commitment to the art of the dance. We know it is not easy to produce something that appears so effortless, and this is what this production does.  From the outside it can seem romantic and exciting to dance so well, but in fact it is a unique journey of commitment, practice, and perseverance. These dancers should feel proud of themselves.

You enter the world of the dances through the nine emotions with an honesty and a spirituality that is a pleasure to witness. A slick confident narration guides you through each section. It’s a rare exploration of the inner landscape of our emotions. It is an accomplished and sound performance. 

When it finishes you realise you are living in a world of subtle choices. A warm feeling wraps around your mind and body like a blanket, before you disappear back into the cool dark night, to find your way home. Highly recommended.


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