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When spirituality meets sensuality

A rare treat of India?s performing arts heritage was presented by the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, writes Shalini Narang.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 18:57 IST

A rare treat of the spiritual and sensual with historical and contemporary aspects of India’s unparallel performing arts heritage was presented by the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble.

This was done in a spellbinding performance titled Sacred Space at the forum of the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts (YBCA) in San Francisco on the evenings of Friday and Saturday, March 3rd and 4th.

An audience of around 680 people attended the sold out events over the two days.

On Saturday, March 4th, the programme of the evening commenced with a brief introduction of the Consul General of India in San Francisco, BS Prakash as the special guest of the evening by Kenneth J Foster, Executive Director of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Foster said that they would be working together for bringing and promoting south Asian programming at the centre.

A short commentary about the odissi style of dance started the performance and before each routine, a short introduction helped put the piece in perspective.

In keeping with the tradition, at the sound and beat of melodious live music created by vocalist Sampada Maraballi and other instrumentalists, the all women five-member dance group lit the stage with their sparkling performance of invocation of Lord Jagannath.

Creatively choreographed pieces titled Ritu Vasanth and Nirvriri followed the mesmerizing sankirtanam (in prayer) routine showcasing perfect group synchronicity and stamina.

Innovative choreography involving vigorous motions in the routines gelled the traditional with the modern that the purists of the dance form may have found straying from the strictly traditional.

The spectacular execution not only enhanced the audience delight but also highlighted the need for more dance companies to mix the old with the new.

After the intermission, while walking back to my seat, I heard a lady in the auditorium comment: "Now I feel like going to India more."

The musicians and dancers had truly accomplished more than anyone could have asked for and acted as brand ambassadors of not only an art form but also as of a nation.

Definitely, a huge achievement in its own wake.

"Nrityagram Dance Ensemble’s unique ability to build a bridge between tradition and innovation is why it was chosen to be featured at the Yerba Buena Center’s Risk and Response Series," said Kenneth J Foster, Executive Director for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

"This outstanding group of artists is actively revitalising an ancient dance form by creating new work that adheres to a rich history and cultural tradition, while making it accessible to new audiences," Kenneth added.

"The artists in our Risk and Response series bear witness to the power of art to heal a troubled world."

"Their work investigates the current state of affairs around the world and in many cases, is a response to the unique and challenging social and political climates. This series offers a wide range of work by international artists who offer inspirational response to tragedy,” he added.

Yerba Buena Centre for Arts is a decade old institution in San Francisco showcasing exhibitions, dance, theater, music performances, films and other events featuring local, national and international artists throughout the year.

Last year, the centre presented Asha Bhonsle and the The Kronos Quartet and later this month flutist GS Sachdev and tabla virtuoso Swapan Chaudhuri will feature in a program celebrating the rich, vast and diverse arts of South Asia.

Though formal schools and informal personnel teaching the performing arts of India have been an intrinsic part of the Bay Area for long, most of the programming have been restricted to the Diaspora populace and has not scaled to encompass the mainstream in a major way.

Interest and initiative by organisations like YBCA in promotion of arts from South Asia are a step in the right direction in educating and illuminating one and all about the vastness and diversity of the varied art forms.

This is also an attempt to make good business sense for the institutions and artists in the light of the large south Asian populace in the Silicon Valley.

First Published: Mar 09, 2006 18:57 IST