Tehreema Mitha Dance Company

March 25, 2006

Tehreema Mitha in
Photo by William Barron, courtesy Tehreema Mitha Dance Company


Tehreema Mitha Dance Company
Joy of Motion Dance Center, Washington, DC

March 25–26, 2006

Reviewed by Kate Mattingly


Few dance forms are as comprehensive as bharata natyam: Percussive elements in the feet play against expressive ideas in the hands and eyes, while the dancer’s arms and neck are fluid and graceful. These qualities were showcased during most of the first half of the program by Tehreema Mitha Dance Company, choreographed by Tehreema Mitha and her mother, Indu Mitha. The second half of the program, composed of more contemporary pieces, was less varied and intriguing.

The choreography as a whole could be seen as a reflection of Tehreema Mitha’s unique upbringing in Pakistan and her path to artistic freedom in the States. Originally a student of her mother, a bharata natyam dancer, Mitha attended ADF’s International Choreographers’ Workshop, and then directed Pakistan’s only dance company for five years. The only Muslim woman from Pakistan to run a dance company, she came to the United States almost a decade ago.

In the classical repertoire, her dancers, dressed in vibrant blues, gold, and burgundy, suggested divine dolls. Gently swaying their upper bodies in lyrical contrast to the staccato pitter-patter of their feet, they transformed a small, black-box theater into a sanctuary of beauty. Radha Gholkar, Deepa Ponnappan, and Praneetha Akhula were particularly stunning. During Akhula’s solo, a flurry of footwork built to a cascade of chiming ankle bells.

The second half of the program featured Entrée: The Main Course, Mitha’s reenactment of a cocktail party where six men and women flirted until a sultry guest (played by the choreographer) entered and grabbed the males’ attention. The predictable jealousy, more drinking, and frustration from the women ensued. Wa’ i, a contemporary solo made and danced by Tehreema, closed the program. The choreographer borrows from classical bharata natyam ideas in using the eyes as expressively as the hands and legs, and in intertwining the movement with the music. If the solo was a bit simple and straightforward, perhaps it’s because Mitha is charting her own contemporary path—one that’s as distinct as her personal background and cultural influences. See www.tehreemamitha-dancecompany.org.