The dictum “Think out of the box, but stay in it” is the guiding philosophy of the National Festival of New Choreographies, to be held at the India Habitat Centre in the Capital this weekend. The three-day event serves as a platform to showcase contemporary takes on traditional Indian dance forms by established classical dancers. “We believe there have to be changes, and if there are some changes in a classical dance form, we accept them,” says Bijan Mukherjee, the former director of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) who founded Impresario India, a non-profit organization that has been hosting the festival since 1999.
According to Mukherjee, choreography styles have changed radically in the past decade with dancers borrowing techniques from other dances (both Indian and Western), introducing improvisations in the theme, bringing greater sophistication, not just in the style but also in ancillary elements such as lighting and costume design.
A Kathak recital choreographed by Monisa Nayak.
The one thing that Mukherjee is sure about is not having outrageously modern dances, which he categorizes as styles that bear almost no resemblance to the original. “(The) uninitiated will not be able to relate to modern dances as connoisseurs (of classical dance forms) will,” he says.
Among the experimental presentations is Bighna Vinayak—The Will Power by Kolkata-based Drishtinandan Centre of Performing Arts. The composition is centred around the Hindu god Ganesha, also known as bighna vinayak, or the destroyer of evil. Bharatnatyam dancer Kush Kushari, who has choreographed the composition, says that it is based on the Natya Shastra (widely recognized as the Bible for all Indian dances), but also features movements from different styles such as Kalaripayattu and Chhau blended into the choreography. Kushari says the martial dance forms’ aggressive movements will set the required tone for the piece and that the younger crowd will relate to the gymnastic- and ballet-style movements “because that is what they are accustomed to seeing in Western dances”.
Kuchipudi performance by Kishore Mosalikanti’s group.
Bharatnatyam dancer Jayalakshmi Eshwar will present Kala Sruthi—The Sounds of Time, which explores the journey of sound through the creation and destruction of the universe. The dance item will chart a path through the cyclic motions of time, climaxing with idea of everything dissolving into nothingness and into Shiva—the Hindu god of destruction. Traversing through the five elements (earth, wind, water, fire and space) that constitute the world, the Delhi-based dancer has used the Panchavadyam (comprising the percussion instruments timila, maddalam, ilathalam and idakka and kombu—a wind instrument) for the first time in her choreography, which will premiere at the festival. “The uniqueness of the Panchavadyam is that it is mainly heard in temples and very rarely used in dances,” says Eshwar.
Taking the festival’s experimental theme forward are the students of Kuchipudi danseuse Kishore Mosalikanti, who will perform a piece titled Prayogam. Mosalikanti says it won’t be a traditional Kuchipudi recital though the “grammar of the style” has not been changed.
Also featured will be group compositions by the Odissi dancer Kiran Segal, who will pay a dance tribute to some of Rabindranath Tagore’s romantic poems; a Manipuri choreography on the theme of spring by Priti Patel; and a Kathak presentation of five ragas by Monisa Nayak.
The 11th National Festival of New Choreographies, 7pm, 27-29 March, Stein
Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Seating on first come, first served basis.
27 March (Friday)
—Yeningtha: The Colours Of Spring (Traditional Manipuri dances)
Concpt and choreography: Priti Patel
Concept and choreography: Manisha Nayak
28 March (Saturday)
—Divya Namaskar: Salutation To Tagore (Odissi)
Concept and choreoghraphy: Kiran Segal
—Bighna Vinayak: The Will Power (Contemporary choreography through Bharatnatyam)
Concept and choreography: Kush Kushari
29 March (Sunday)
—Prayogam (Experimental Kuchipudi)
Choreography: Kishore Mosalikanti
—Kala Shruthi: The Sounds Of Time (Bharatanatyam)
Concept and choreography: Jayalakshmi Eshwar