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Indian dance, music weave magic in Vienna

art-and-culture Updated: Aug 07, 2008 16:06 IST
Highlight Story

Imagine European audiences spending an entire month tapping their feet to Indian dance and music! That's exactly what happened at a festival in Vienna, as Indian artistes gave a glimpse of folk, traditional and even Bollywood art.

The occasion was the silver anniversary of Impuls Tanz, Vienna's international festival of contemporary dance where performances run parallel to workshops in a month-long celebration of every move that the human body is capable of making.

The festival opened in July with songs by the nomadic Manganiyar musicians of Rajasthan, including children, who live in the Thar desert.

The Manganiyar musicians mesmerised thousands at a midsummer night open air performance held against the background of a full moon and on the sprawling premises of Vienna's Museum Quarter.

Called Manganiyar Seduction, the ensemble of mostly Muslim musicians, often singing in praise of Hindu gods before a predominantly European audience, was a sell-out. Visually, the show was enchanting for its gigantic Moulin Rouge-cum-castle in the air kind of look.

Conceived by Roysten Abel, the Kerala-born alumnus of Delhi's National School of Drama, 42 musicians were perched in a row in nine different jharokhas (window friezes) framed by blinking light bulbs, laced with red curtains and arranged in four rows to resemble a sheet of music.

The inner courtyard of the 60,000-sq-m contemporary arts complex was packed with thousands of people, most of whom remained standing or swayed to the energetic two-hour performance.

"I am overwhelmed," Titus Leber, Austrian multimedia writer and film director whispered to IANS during the show.

Fitness guru and Bollywood dance composer Terence Lewis was invited by ImPuls Tanz to conduct workshops in Vienna. He taught 40 European students to dance to the tune of Taal se taal mila from Taal, Subhash Ghai's romantic musical from 1999.

But Lewis stayed back for another week to take lessons from contemporary dance gurus like Joe Alegado of the US and Rasmus Oelme of Sweden.

Lewis, also known as Shiva, learnt to dance like a tiger from American choreographer Joe Alegado whose body movement techniques help to bring out the animal in us and affirm man's relationship with the earth. "It is crazy, animalistic stuff but very contemporary," lanky Lewis told IANS.

Martin Kaempchen, the Tagore scholar from Santiniketan, was touring Europe with three singers and dancers from the Santhal tribe. Part of this group was Sanyasi Lohar who sang Baul music and played on the one-stringed instrument called Ektara at an evening hosted by the Austro-Indian society.

Shovana Narayan performed Kathak to the music of Franz Schubert, one of Austria's greatest composers from the 18th century, at this year's summer festival in this country's beautiful lake district.

Dressed in a midnight blue and gold lehnga, the diva left a packed auditorium breathless when she mimed to Schubert's Winter Journey Songs, a series of poems about nostalgia, the painful present and uncertain future.

Famous cellist Yvonne Timoianu and pianist Alexander Preda interpreted Schubert's pensive music to which Narayan's dance added Asian sensibility.

Narayan discovered the musician in 1986 when she first danced to Schubert's Death and the Maiden. "Schubert evokes a range of bitter sweet emotions. I feel very close to his music," an inspired Narayan told IANS.