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Indo American Arts Council's presents its first Erasing Borders: Festival of Indian Dance on August 18-21, 2008

by Rajika Puri
August 11, 2008
New York, NY
This month in New York, the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) known for its visionary festivals of Indian art forms - film, playwriting, music, and visual art - launches its first annual dance festival: Erasing Borders, with four days of performances as well as workshops, panel discussions, film screenings, talks, and post-performance Q & A sessions. Participants include dancers and choreographers - from New York, various parts of the US, Canada, the UK, and India - who focus on new works that express where Indian 'art' dance stands today.

For its first two days the festival is under the aegis of Battery Dance Company's 27th ANNUAL DOWNTOWN FESTIVAL, a fitting godparent given that its Executive & Artistic Director Jonathan Hollander is not only a founding member of the IAAC (and active Board member), but is also known as a fan and promoter of Indian dance. It then moves indoors to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Joan Weil Center for Dance for the conference sessions and two evening presentations.

Works presented range from those created within the aesthetic and structural framework of classical traditions like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, and Odissi to those that cut across performing art genres and employ a variety of media to get across messages of concern to Indian dancers across the globe. Some are set in the style of traditional dance music; others are performed to 'new' south Asian music. More often than not the scores are originally commissioned.

Companies like Natya Dance Theatre and Nayika Dance Theater (which performs in conjunction with Rudrakshya) present themes from Hindu myth with dances entitled "Govinda" and "Ardhanareeshwara". Parijat Desai Dance Company, Thresh, and Sampradaya Dance Creations deal with relatively secular subjects in "The Wall", "Tides of the Moon", and "Howzaat!"(the latter is about the game of cricket!). The few solo works cover a similar range: Janaki Rangarajan's "Ranganjali" is a karana-based composition in the style of her guru Padma Subramaniam, while Sudarshan Belsare's "Carmine Bees" and Manijeh Ali's "Spirit of the Mountain" explore sexual or ethnic identity in ground-breaking ways.

"Abhisaranam" by Manu Kala Mandir's Shivani Thakkar and T.K. Thiruchelwam, and "Yugal" by Parul Shah and Prashant Shah – both duets – are creative expressions of classical forms. However, most works - a majority of them choreographed for groups - go beyond traditional Indian dance. Like Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh's "Nomadic Still", MariaColacoDance's "Sath Safed", and Sinha Danse's "Quebasian Rhapsody", they borrow from street theater, martial arts forms, and a range of modern dance techniques. Ananya DanceTheater Company's "Daak" is a passionate call for social justice; Anurekha Ghosh & Company's "Noor" explores "our notions of light from a scientific, religious, and mystical point of view".

No wonder that the co-curators, Prachi Dalal (who is also festival director) and Uttara Coorlawala, have labeled the two evening programs "Transitions and Translocations" and "Globaliz-Asians"!

The daytime sessions, too, address aesthetic – and practical - matters of concern to dancers of today. Panels discuss the aesthetics of Indian dance, as well as its sustainability in terms of company organisation and funding. There is a workshop on light design and another on Gyrotonics, an injury prevention method. A lecture on new directions in Indian dance is followed by a discussion on identity, immigration, and change in Indian dance which, like the festival, is called "Erasing Borders".

Festival dates:
Monday, August 18 to Thursday, August 21, 2008

Aug 18 &19: 12-2 p.m. - @ Downtown Festival, One Chase Plaza (bet. Liberty & Pine)
Aug 20 & 21: 7.30 p.m. - Ailey CitygroupTheater, 405 W 55th St (at 9th Ave.)

Conference Sessions:
Aug 19: 3 - 8 p.m.; Aug 20 & 21: 11 a.m.- 6.30 p.m. - The Ailey Studios, 405 W 55th St.
for tickets & info: http://www.iaac.us/IAAC_dance_festival/ticketing_program_details.htm

Note: all photos were provided courtesy of their respective companies.
Boston's Sudarshan Belsare

Boston's Sudarshan Belsare

Photo © & courtesy of Kate Luchini

Minneapolis' Ananya Dance Theater Company

Minneapolis' Ananya Dance Theater Company

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Virtucio

Montreal's Sinha Danse

Montreal's Sinha Danse

Photo © & courtesy of Michael Slobodian

New York's Parijat Desai Dance Co.

New York's Parijat Desai Dance Co.

Photo © & courtesy of Shay Peretz

Toronto's Sampradaya Dance Creations

Toronto's Sampradaya Dance Creations

Photo © & courtesy of Sanjay Ramachandran

Washington D.C.'s Dakshina-Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Co

Washington D.C.'s Dakshina-Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Co

Photo © & courtesy of Stephen Baranovias

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