The Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC)’s 11th Erasing Borders Dance Festival was held over three days this past weekend. The festival consisted of two shows in Queens and Manhattan boroughs of New York City and four workshops. The artists came from a variety of dance backgrounds from classical to contemporary.
On September 15th, the main show was held at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theatre in New York City with inaugural addresses by Sunil Hali, IAAC Executive Director, Dr.Nirmal Mattoo, IAAC Chair, Festival Director Deepsikha Chatterjee and Curator Uttara Coorlawala. The opening performance by Radhe Jaggi, a graduate of Kalakshetra Foundation, disciple of Leela Samson and also daughter of Sadhguru, enthralled the audience with a Bharatnatyam piece Sankara Srigiri choreographed by Leela Samson. This was followed by IndianRaga trio of Isha Parupudi, Swathi Jaisankar and Sophia Salingaros who performed a medley of their works – Shiva Shambho, Mohanakalyani Thillana, Depression and Kaa Vaa Vaa.
Brinda Guha brought in her group Kalamandir Dance Company to perform urbanJATRA, a contemporary piece drawing from Kathak & other Indian Classical movements. In Parijat Desai’s Pardon My Heart, which was the final performance, the choreography weaved together dance with recitation of contemporary verse and with Hindustani khayal and tarana music.
Post performance, the talk back was moderated by Parul Shah, dancer, choreographer and one of the curators at the festival. On the agenda were gender issues and contemporary interpretations as compared to classical dance forms.
The prior evening, on September 14th, the first of the two shows opened to welcoming crowds at the Community center in Flushing. This was the first time the event had extended to Queens bringing the festival to a wider audience. The post show talk back, moderated by Uttara Coorlawala, IAAC dance curator, revealed an interesting gap in audience expectation and performers’ ambitions. Upon learning how the audience had difficulty understanding the contemporary vocabulary of dance, artist Brinda Guha who was one of the performers that evening, demonstrated how she combined different forms, from folk to Kathak and Manipuri to Western African drums in her work. This garnered appreciative applause from the audience.
With the intention of giving back to the dance community, this year IAAC also held four workshops, two at Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theatre on September 15 from 1:30PM to 4:30PM and two at Barnard College, New York City from 1:10PM to 5:25PM. The first session “Growing your company, Fundraising and Grants” had panelists Aparna Ramaswamy of Ragamala Dance Company and Nolini Barretto who most recently was Co-Curator of Dance on Camera Festival at Lincoln Center.
IAAC dance curator Sruthi Mohan moderated the conversation. A very informative session, it had participants who came from various parts of the country such as Arizona, Texas and Colorado, to attend, learn and network with the dance community. This was followed by a workshop in Body Scripting: An approach to Choreography presented by Tamar Rogoff who had one advise to the aspiring and emerging dancers “Be original and let your spirit come through in your work.”
On Monday September 16, IAAC Curator Uttara Coorlawala moderated a session on “Dancing Identity/Dancing Indianness” with artists Brinda Guha, Parijat Desai, Isha Parupudi and Radhe Jaggi in attendance. Students of dance at the Barnard College of Columbia University participated in the very engaging dialogue and were very receptive during the question and answer session. The second session was a dance workshop led by Radhe Jaggi in Bharatnatyam.
Sunil Hali, IAAC Executive Director, noted there was positive feedback about the festival. “The way the community responded to this event leading to a sold out show is very heartening” he said. “We want to grow strength to strength by showcasing the best and finest Indian dance performances to the New York community.” he added.