Ektaa Center History
Established in 1989 as the Arpana Foundation a non profit 501c3 corporation, we have presented over 50 performances at various venues in Southern California. The Arpana Foundation was renamed the Ektaa Center in 2003 to reflect the new direction and initiatives of the organization. The mission of the organization has been redefined as more inclusive of the diverse arts and cultures of India and the name change was a part of an effort to build a new identity for the organization.
In the mid 1980’s, there was an increasing number of people of Indian origin moving into Orange County. As with most Indian families, cultural education is an essential children’s activity. Be it dance, music or learning the values through ‘Bala Vihar’ (special classes for Hindu philosophies), first generation children began to be exposed to new cultural experiences. At this time Ramya Harishankar who had been teaching Bharata Natyam (traditional classical dance), saw the need for an active organization to present visiting dancers and dance companies to local students and parents. With the help of her husband Harish Murthy and an enthusiastic group of volunteers the Arpana Foundation was formed. To provide a financial springboard for the organization, Ramya presented ‘Epics of India’ in 1988 at the Plummer auditorium in Fullerton as a fund raiser. The humble beginning of programming happened at the Sunny Hills auditorium with the presentation of Kalanidhi Narayanan and a company of dancers from Abhinayasudha based in Chennai, India. About 125 patrons attended the event but the ball had been set rolling.
Through the years, we have presented renown artists from India such as Sanjukta Panigrahi, the Dhananjayans, Sonal Mansingh, Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar, Kelucharan Mohapatra and Birju Maharaj. Along with them we have presented popular local US artists such as Ramya Harishankar and the Arpana Dance Company, Mythili Kumar and the Abhinaya Dance Company and Hema Rajagopalan and the Natya Dance ensemble. We have also provided a platform for upcoming young dancers and dance companies touring the US for the first time such as Revathi Ramchandran, Mavin Khoo and the Cleveland Cultural Alliance.
We have also served the broader community by holding the performances at a variety of venues such as the Barclay, Fullerton College Campus Theater, Torrance Cultural Arts Center or the Bellflower Civic Auditorium. We have grown from our early stages when we had audiences of about a 100 to being able to fill a house such as The Barclay with 750 enthusiastic and excited patrons of the arts.
Ektaa in Sanskrit means ‘Oneness’ or ‘Unity’. Ektaa Center’s mission is to create an awareness and understanding of the arts and cultures of India through diverse medium such as music and dance and the related arts. We recognized two decades ago the diversity of the communities in Orange County and many parts of America. The central belief was that education and knowledge of cultures creates better communities. There was also a growing diaspora that sought to preserve traditional arts and cultural practices through education, community involvement and sponsorship of the performing arts.
In 2004 Ektaa Center opened its doors as a physical space for education and practice of the traditional and other artistic and cultural practices of India. With just a few local teachers. Today the Center and all the teachers are recognized as the torch bearers of the arts and culture of India in greater Los Angeles area. During the last 15 years, we have operated a facility that has served as home for after school enrichment through the arts for the Orange County school going children in the diaspora and otherwise. We have also built bridges by partnering with Presenters and UNiversities like the Irvine Barclay Theater, UCLA, UCI and Loyola Marymount University. Besides presenting quality visiting artistes and companies from India, Ektaa has produced community events such as ‘Nachle India’ dance series, ‘Ragaspirit’ music festivals and most recently the annual ‘Diwali Fest’ events for the last 5 years. Ektaa Center has been centrally responsible over the last 15 years to create awareness, educate, foster and showcase the cultural traditions of India in the Orange County area and has been recognized by the community and City of Irvine for its contributions. We believe that we have laid the foundations for lifelong arts learning, participation and exchange.
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