The event was the outdoor IAAC Erasing Borders Festival of Indian Dance which showcased topnotch talent from India and New York, turning the waterfront into a dance arena with hundreds of New Yorkers learning about the intricacies of Indian dance. Even Lady Liberty watched!
Indeed this passion, this madness for excellence is what Jonathan Hollander has acquired from his many visits to India, and he has used this mantra globally – with varied countries, with young children and with dancers and musicians across the world stage, always with a New York sensibility.
Hundreds had gathered near New York harbour to watch the Erasing Borders Outdoor Dance Festival but there was an Audience of One who must have truly appreciated the lively tableaux that passed before her eyes – Lady Liberty.
Indeed, the Statue of Liberty has seen it all, the abandoned, the political refugees, the dreamers, the wanna-bes, the huddled masses – but here was a joyous rainbow of colors, of bright-eyed dancers celebrating their ancient culture, their aspirations and the diversity of America.
If you missed this festival, check out the upcoming indoor festival of dance!
He has been Shiva and Krishna, countless mythical heroes and ordinary humans, and he has traveled the globe, telling all their wondrous tales through the magic of rhythm and dance. Datuk Ramli Ibrahim is a changemaker, an innovator with bells on his feet. For over 30 years, this Malaysian dance pioneer has nurtured both Indian classical dance and contemporary modern dance in Malaysia. He brings past, present and future on the lit up stage with audacity and shows that culture is meant to be shared, regardless of faith or nationality.
“For most of the dancers, our childhoods were tinged with nostalgia for a life we never actually had,” says Payal Kadakia, New York based dancer and artistic director of Sa Dance Company. “Our memories are lush with images, songs, stories we heard from our grandparents, parents, or picked up during extended trips to India.”
The dancers have varied dance experiences from Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathak, to folk dances like Garba, Bhangra, Rajasthani, as well as Jazz, Ballet and Hip-Hop. As she adds, “it’s about time we address this fragmented, dislocated subconscious. Through dance we are attempting just that; not to create a new identity but to shape the one we have.”
In New York, you can expect the unexpected – fabulous Indian dance taking place under the trees in the greenery of cascading parks, right in the middle of joggers and strollers, office workers and moms pushing prams. All the doing of the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) which in collaboration with the Downtown Dance Festival presented free lunch-time performances in Battery Park.
“To see the dancers performing among trees at Battery Park, the many members of the public stopping to watch and take photographs – some even during their lunch-time jogging – was quite remarkable. Rama Vaidyanathan did her ‘Mayuri Alaripu’ in a Peacock Feather Suite that was designed for the venue and looks wonderful in it. Vijaya Lakshmi, too, did a peacock dance, but we were happy that it did NOT usher in any rain!” Guest Blog
Can you appropriate two worlds? Or to put it less elegantly, can you eat your cake and have it too? The Sa Dancers once again prove that you can, shifting effortlessly as they do between the world of business and the world of fabulous dance.
Their latest showcase at the Alvin Ailey Theater showed how effortlessly they mix their roots and faraway homelands with the here and now of frenetic New York.
The SA Dance Company took an audience of over 200 people on a journey into Indian villages, sitting on an imaginary slow-moving boat, then to Mughal India, and yes, out into the pouring Indian monsoon. The music was a wonderful blend of folk and Bollywood, modern and pop and the dance steps spawned from many different choreographies created a pattern all their own.
On this golden summer afternoon, it seemed quite a good option to be jobless, a tourist or a window shopper browsing the Financial District rather than a hedge fund guy or a banker immersed in a dry office!
In a surreal juxtaposition, sparkling Bollywood, Indian music and dance had come to NYC’s downtown business area, with costumed dancers doing high kicks against the skyscrapers and bringing the ‘nakras’ and ‘chakras’ of Indian dance to this rather sober part of town.
Tourists gaped from the top of open double decker tourist buses which rolled past the plaza with its unexpected celebration of Bharat Natyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak and ‘filmi’ Bollywood dance. Right on One New York Plaza was Erasing Borders: Festival of Indian Dance, a free event co-presented by the Indo-American Arts Council and Battery Dance Company as part of the 31st Downtown Dance Festival.
The first thing I spotted was rows and rows of footwear lined up outside the door, neatly stacked. I dutifully shed my sandals too, and going inside found an Indian-style behthak in progress with silk cushions scattered on the woven carpet.
Arts lovers, some with babies in tow, were already sitting cross-legged, facing the empty expanse of a large wooden floor. Musicians were tuning up their instruments, in anticipation.
The space is the Anamika Navatman Studios, an innovative organization for South Asian Arts and the production was Bhinna Pravaaha: Memories of a Performing Artist – Maya Kulkarni. This is a first undertaking to record and pay tribute to the noted artists of the past.
They are probably some of the brainiest dancers in America, having graduated from top universities like Stanford to MIT to Harvard Business School. Indeed, between them, the sprightly Sa Dancers have degrees in everything from mechanical engineering to computer science – but they sure can dance!
Lord Shiva danced the world into existence with a shake of his mighty damru, it is said, and we’ve been dancing ever since.You had to be at ‘Erasing Borders: Festival of Indian Dance’, a three day festival of dance in NYC to see how boldly the ghungroo bells ring and how feet and hands and bodies meld into a thing of beauty. What was eye-opening was the sheer diversity of the dance vocabulary and how it’s being interpreted by a whole new generation of dancers.
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When different lives, different experiences intersect, you get something totally unexpected and fresh. That’s the story of The Sa Dance Company – twelve dancers coming from diverse disciplines and filtering their moves together into something unique. Many of them are from Ivy League colleges and work at blue chip corporations but through it all they’ve kept their deep passion for dance.