Just imagine: You wait with bated breath as a lithe, young circus artist climbs on to the wire, daring to walk across it. The tension mounts as she hovers above the stage. But, even as she effortlessly proceeds to perform on the hair’s breadth of wire, you still can’t exhale.
Tightrope performances are just one of the shows that the 8th International Children’s Festival of Performing Arts has in store for you.
Look Ma, no hands! German students perform gravity-defying stunts
The subjects and styles of the acts will vary from acrobatics, the intertribal politics of traditional Nigeria, juggling, and dance, to the caste and class politics of Nepal, puppetry, and much more. With 30 countries and more than 5,000 cultural ambassadors coming to perform at six venues across New Delhi, this children’s festival is like nothing you’ve seen before. “Children’s entertainment in India has been restricted to TV and Harry Potter so far,” says festival director Utkarsh Marwah.
To change that equation and to promote harmony through culture, the India-based Ryan Foundation—which runs various schools, NGOs and educational institutions in India—has been organizing this festival since 2000.
It started when Ryan International Schools wanted a cultural platform beyond just annual days for its students. The first year, it was a performance in Morocco; in subsequent years, the kids have participated all over the world. “We wanted to go beyond the syllabus,” says Grace Pinto, managing director, Ryan International Group of Institutions. This year, 100 Indian schools are scheduled to participate in the annual event.
In order to promote cultural exchanges between children, the festival will also include a world village where participating countries will set up stalls to sell souvenirs. “We encourage interaction among participants on and off the stage. This would be a great opportunity for them to meet each other and buy souvenirs to take home, and (to) understand the significance of their buys,” says Marwah.
The amalgamation of so many different countries and cultures also means the prevalence of foreign languages, but the festival’s participants are not concerned. “Language is not a problem because we have experience with international festivals. Also, peace has no language,” says Jasmin Novljakovic, director of Culture Center, Croatia.
The language of theatre and performing arts also ensures there will be no barriers. The audience will be provided with a synopsis of the play and once the action starts on stage, the beauty of the performance, lights and talent will take over.
To make the festival more accessible, the organizers have ensured many of the shows are public. Among these is a theatrical parade starting near Jantar Mantar. “Give peace a chance” is the theme of the festival, and students of the College of Art, New Delhi, will create a piece of installation art to mark the event. The participants of the parade will also take an oath to promote peace and harmony in the world.
“This is an event that these children will remember for the rest of their lives,” says Pinto.
The festival is from 23-28 November, with more than 200 performances at Kamani Auditorium, Shri Ram Center for Performing Arts, National Bal Bhawan and LTG Auditorium. Call 011-26122712 or 9911446620 for passes to the public events.