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Sanskrit may not be the preferred language of the common man but it may lend its healing properties now to art. The ancient language and its therapeutic relevance to the modern man is the theme of 4th International Ancient Arts Symposium Festival that opens on 22 May at New Delhi’s Kamani Auditorium.

The two-day festival will bring together sessions presenting recent clinical research on the power of dance and music on systemic changes in the human body and host multicultural dance and music presentations from around the world to celebrate the theme.

Both days will feature a talk followed by a dance or music presentation. On Day 1, Mandara Cromwell from the US will speak on “Can Sound Heal?". This will be followed by a fusion dance, Sanskrit: The Mantra Bhasha—by ballet dancers from the Bucharest National Opera House in Romania, performing in India for the first time, and Odissi dancers from the Delhi-based cultural organization Rays of Wisdom Society. The performance will be accompanied by Sanskrit shlokas, generally used in Hindu rituals. The ballet, scripted by yoga and meditation exponent Bijoylaxmi Hota, will highlight the healing power of dance when blended with the incantations in Sanskrit.

Reela Hota
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Reela Hota

Reela, herself an Odissi dancer and recipient of the prestigious Sanatan Nritya Puraskar in 2007 for her contribution to Odissi dance, will also perform at the festival.

The fusion dance, which took a year and a half to put together, will focus on the sacred syllable aum, and the exploration of all sounds originating from it. “It’s like the Big Bang theory, which suggests that the universe was made up of nothing and then there was a big explosion which led to a sound. Yoga says that primordial sound was aum, from which came the basic sounds of language," says Reela. “It is this phenomenon that we are exhibiting through orchestration."

The dance, a curious mix of classical ballet from Romania and Odissi, one of the eight classical dance forms of India, brings together the best of both. Romanian ballerinas, with their rigorous ballet techniques, and Odissi dancers, with the focus on eye movements, dynamic body postures and intricate footwork, blend on stage to convey the meditative theme of healing.

The dance performances will include pure Odissi orchestration, classical ballets and fusion orchestration. The talk on Day 2, “Psychodrama As a Living Process", by Sue Daniel from Australia, will be followed by a musical recital by Hindustani classical singers Pandit Rajan and Sajan Mishra.

The festival, held annually since 2010, has tried to highlight the therapeutic benefits of music and dance in restoring individual health and harmony. In previous years, the event has focused on the therapeutic effects of poetry, painting and pottery.

Reela, who regards her dance as a spiritual practice, a means towards inner purification, says art is not just for sensory pleasure or social activism; art also heals. “We have to find art’s healing properties—the spiritual aspect of art and linking it to everyday life is important; if it can’t be linked, it stands for nothing," she says.

The 4th International Ancient Arts Symposium Festival opens on 22 May at Kamani Auditorium, 1, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi, from 6.30pm onwards (43503351/ 52). Passes will be available at the venue and also at Anand Store, Khan Market; Cottage Emporium, Janpath; Khadi, Connaught Place; Odisha Emporium, Baba Khadak Singh Marg.

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