My first real exposure to Indian classical dance was in February 2008 when a close friend and colleague at the Alliance Française de Pune invited me to attend the Shaniwarwada festival. Set against the backdrop of the vestiges of the Shaniwarwada fort, the two days of the festival were a treat. I had the opportunity to see various dances, including Bharatnatyam (my friend’s troupe), Odissi and Kathak. It was during the festival that I also had the lifetime experience of seeing Sonal Mansingh on stage. Pure magic.
Since then, I have tried to attend as many dance performances as I can, even though the finer nuances of the dance movements continue to escape me. I had a few more opportunities in Pune after the Shaniwarwada festival, but Bangalore has provided a very regular sampling of the Indian arts. Organised at the Alliance Française (where else?) in collaboration with Mohan Khokar‘s dance association, headed by his son, Ashish Khokar, Dance DisCourse is a regular event which showcases a dance form every two months. After attending a couple of those events last year, this year I treated myself to a dance extravaganza on World Dance Day.
A little background first – World Dance Day is celebrated every year on 29th April, to commemorate the birth day of Jean George NOVERRE, the renowned French ballet dancer. Alliance Française celebrated the day with a 12 hour extravaganza of Indian classical and contemporary dances, with 140 dancers gracing the stage. The event was inaugurated with a showcase of the various genres we would see later in the day – with an array of excellent and heartwarming performances by children.
This was followed by the opening of the exhibition showcasing some (0.01%) of Mohan Khokar’s collection, which includes over 500 000 photos and 200 000 brochures amongst other dance artefacts. I loved the exhibition, since the display also included vintage posters (which I love)!
It was also really nice to see the number of people who came to attend the various performances through the day. Sadly, though not surprisingly, I learnt that the event (as with most cultural events of this sort) didn’t receive the financial support of the government and thus the association had to reward the performers with garlands of money, a donation for a patron hailing from Delhi.
Though I didn’t sit for all the performances, what I saw and experienced will stay with me for a while : Indian arts and culture at their best!