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Five nights of dance at Purana Qila

The Ananya Dance Festival returns to Delhi for its 12th edition

Piya bin nahi aave mohe chaina in Raag Yamani Bilawal rises to a feverish pitch in Maharaas—the dance that unites the nayika with Hindu god Krishna, taking her to a transcendental plane. She believes she is dancing with the supreme power, only to realize that every journey must end, the beloved must leave just like the soul departs from the body, all is but maya (illusion). Delhi-based dancer Maitreyee Pahari will create this illusion with 14 dancers through Kathak and Mayurbhanj Chhau at the five-day Ananya Dance Festival, which starts on 2 October at Purana Qila, Delhi. She will be joined by four dancers from across the country who will present group choreographies in Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Mohiniattam and Kathak on themes ranging from the grandeur of the Narmada river to the panchabhuta (five elements—ether, wind, water, fire and earth).

Ananya, meaning unparalleled, is a festival of Indian classical dance and is in its 12th year. Weaving the space (Purana Qila) into the choreography gives the artistes a great resource to experiment and play with.

Pallavi Krishnan is a Mohiniattam exponent from Trichur in Kerala. At Ananya, she will present the concept of the panchabhuta. “Many dancers do the panchabhuta, but I am connecting these five elements to the seven chakras of energy in the human body—the Kundalini concept. The idea is in Adi Shankaracharya’s book Saundarya Lahari, and I am presenting this through choreography."

The creative director of the festival, Manjot Chawla, says they challenge the artistes to be creative yet adhere to the grammar of the dance form. Malabika Mitra, a Kathak exponent from Kolkata, found a bhajan (prayer song) in a book in Varanasi about how Vrindavan was happy when the flute was heard and how it grieved when Krishna left for Mathura. Such anonymous traditional gems hidden in remote corners of the country turn into spectacular works of art at the festival.

Ananya has created an identity for dance forms like Kathak, Mohiniattam, Odissi, Bharatnatyam and Chhau by demystifying classical dance and putting artistes and audience on the same page. Schoolchildren come to Ananya to witness choreographies in the making.

This year, students from Vasant Valley, Delhi Public School and Modern School will participate in the seminars, from 3-4 October, where artistes will explain the meanings and techniques of the different dance forms. Says Mitra, “These interactions are very important. Just watching a performance is not enough. Understanding why we do what we do, and how we do it makes children interested in either taking up a form or just becoming good audience members and enjoy much better."

The Ananya Dance Festival will be held from 2-6 October; 7-8.30pm; at Purana Qila, Delhi. The performances will be telecast on Doordarshan.

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