Magazine article Dance Magazine

India Report

Magazine article Dance Magazine

India Report

Article excerpt

INDIA is a land where dance first thrived over 2,000 years ago. Yet, in the South Indian city of Bangalore, a teeming metropolis where digital technology and ancient customs intertwine, two recent dance festivals reflected India's ancient/contemporary dichotomy.

An all-night spring festival, Vasantahabba, at Nrityagram, a dance compound just outside Bangalore, has become an annual destination for arts lovers. Nrityagram was founded in 1990 by Protima Gauri Bedi, who convinced the local government to give her ten acres of dusty land where, brick by brick, she built a thriving home for classical and contemporary dance. Students who live and work at the school follow intensive training in yoga, Indian classical dance, and martial arts, in addition to caring for the buildings, gardens, and grounds. The center's acclaimed professional company creates original choreography based on Odissi classical dance, the roots of which reach back to the second century B.C. Odissi was revitalized in the mid-twentieth century through the study of hundreds of sculpted dancing figures which are still visible on stone temples in the East Indian state of Orissa.

Under a full moon last February, more than 30,000 people gathered in Nrityagram's outdoor amphitheater and surrounding grounds. This feast of dance and music attracted local villagers, families, hip youth from Bangalore, and aficionados from around India. Opening with a drumming invocation, the program contrasted classical Bharata Natyam performed by the long-limbed Priyadarshini Govind with contemporary work by the Mumbai (Bombay) artist Astad Deboo, whose slow motion dance on the raised roof of the stage created a transcendent moment in the moonlight. Deboo's spinning dance, in full white skirt and top, recalled the early work of American postmodern choreographer Laura Dean. …

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