Devotional dance group shines


Second generation ISKCON devotee Goura Prema Riggan moved judges and an audience of 35 million on Season 4 of the talent show India’s Got Talent late last year, depicting Queen Draupadi’s surrender to Lord Krishna in one performance.

Bursting ahead of the hundreds of thousands who audition, Natya Nectar – her dance company - reached the semi-finals, giving the already successful group a powerful springboard for presenting Krishna conscious entertainment to the masses.

Doing this through dance is something Goura Prema has been focused on since the very beginning of her life. Growing up at the New Dwarka ISKCON community in Los Angeles, she says her mother, Gurukula teacher Mahadevi Dasi, swears she would do dance mudras (sacred hand symbols) in her sleep at age three.

Studying at the BG Prakash Shakti School of Dance since the early age of five, she learned Bharat Natyam and went on to continue studying various other forms of dance such as ballet, jazz, hip-hop throughout her childhood and early teens. In 2003, at the age of 21, she was finally accepted in one of the oldest and most renowned Kathak schools in Delhi. She had made up her mind to pursue Kathak, the North Indian devotional dance form seriously and even auditioned and was accepted at the Sri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK) when disaster struck and she was hit by a car on the streets of Delhi.

She sustained four fractures in her leg and while she laboriously toiled through all the hardship she began praying to Krishna for recovery. Despte doctors having condemned her to never dance again, she braved all odds, returned to Delhi from Vrindavan where her mother lives, and made a full recovery after a year of physiotherapy.

Getting her 4-year diploma, she says, ““It was a miracle,” she says. “It’s only by the power of prayer that I’m dancing today—that’s for sure.”

With her upbringing as a devotee, Goura found that the sacred dance form of Kathak, which told “Katha,” or stories of Radha and Krishna, came naturally to her. “I can see that when you’re telling these stories through your dance, you have a deeper emotion,” her guru Kavita Thakur would say in appreciation. “Because you know the pastimes.”

Upon graduating from SBKK, Goura Prema began traveling around India with Lokanath Swami’s festival tour, performing at various temples. During this time, she began to think about how performing with a group, rather than as a solo artist, would be a more powerful way to present the sacred stories of the Mahabharat, Ramayan, and Bhagavad-gita.

Forming her own group in 2007 at an Indian theme dance in Hong Kong and moving solely through word of mouth, Goura went on to perform dances featuring such diverse skills as aerial skills, acrobatics, parkour and Indian martial art. They also performed at Amitahbh Bachchan’s 70th birthday, opened for American music star Lady Gaga and appeared at fashion shows presented by ace designer Tarun Tahiliani.

But it was after being selected for India’s Got Talent that Goura Prema got her chance to bring bhakti to the largest audience. Garnering immense praise and appreciation for the devotional dance performances, Natya Nectar unfortunately didn’t make it through to the semi-finale. However, they did receive a standing ovation from the judges – including well known Bollywood film director Karan Johar - who thanked Goura and her team for “representing our culture”.

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Natya Nectar on India's Got Talent, Mahabharata performance from Natya Nectar Dance Company on Vimeo.

Adapted from Iskcon News