Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Delhi International Arts Festival

Being in Delhi implies being caught up in a flurry of events, each day there is so much happening. This year the government has been particularly active in promoting cultural events as we celebrate the centenary of shifting of the capital (by the British) from Calcutta to Delhi (or to be exact, New Delhi). The city was planned by two British architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker and it is in the wondrous 'Lutyen's Delhi', shaded by venerable old trees that many of the cultural events unfold. Now, of course, as the city expands, new venues are identified and some part or the other seems to host a significant programme almost every day.

The Delhi International Arts Festival, organized by the dancer Pratibha Prahlad, has grown enormously over the past seven years and now is a fortnight long event that brings outstanding artists of all ages and countries (the emphasis of course is on Indian artists) and hosts shows that are free and open to all. This time it seemed bigger than ever. We witnessed dance from Spain, Iran, Sri Lanka, Korea, India, music from Egypt, Israel, Australia, India, theatre from Britain, Hungary, Russia, Japan, India, films from Cuba, India, America, art and photography from Hungary, Russia, India and more. Each event was impeccably organized (at least all that I attended). Of course, the international events seemed to draw larger crowds, especially as they were organized in collaboration with various embassies, but what I enjoyed most were a series of classical Indian dance performances held in the outdoor auditorium of Rabindra Bhawan as a tribute to Tagore.

We were seated under the wide open skies with an ancient peepul tree in front that was decorated with garlands of marigold, around which was built a large stage lined with oil lamps that flickered through the evening. Each day had two performances; there was a large repertoire that was displayed and I watched, fascinated to be sitting so close to the dancer. I felt fortunate that I could see both old and young dancers, see a range of styles (many not often accessible outside their own region) and within a style, to be able to compare different schools of dance and see how a dancer's own interpretation and selection of pieces brought about a distinctive stamp of individuality on the performance. I learned a lot.

It is impossible to recreate my experiences through words or through video recordings, they do not do justice to the beauty of the dance and the melody and rhythm of the music. However I am giving a few links below just to show some of the dancers (and dance styles) that are not publicized much. They are not the best recordings but watching them for a couple of minutes will indicate the tremendous diversity of dance that we have in this country.

Bina Devi (Manipuri), looking ethereal (though very small!) on stage-

Sangeeta Dash (who learned Odissi from Guru Deba Prasad Das, one of the masters of this dance who has a different, more direct style compared to the better known, curvy style of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra), in an invocation to the guru-

I also show two snippets of kathak (a popular dance form of north India), performed by two different older dancers, just to show subtle differences between different schools of the same dance.

Rani Khanam, the emphasis is on describing a mood.

Sunayana Hazarilal, the emphasis is on percussion and foot-work.

No comments:

#Header1_headerimg { margin: 0px auto }