Nritya Darpan mesmerizes the New Jersey audiences with dance festival

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A still from ‘Kali’ by Bharathi Penneswaran

Six multi-talented US based dance companies performed high quality dance dramas using various Indian classical dance forms such as Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Manipuri and Odissi along with Western dance styles

Our Bureau

New Brunswick, NJ

Indian Heritage & Cultural Association-NJ (IHCA) held it’s FIRST ever dance festival Nritya Darpan, on December 10th, 2022, at New Brunswick Performing Arts Center celebrating emerging contemporary and classical artists from the Indian diaspora.

Six multi-talented US based dance companies performed high quality dance dramas using various Indian classical dance forms such as Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Manipuri and Odissi along with Western dance styles. The dance dramas were selected by the very talented curators Maya Kulkarni-Chheda and Karen Greenspan who had the painstaking task of selecting the best entries among the large pool of entries across the USA. Maya Kulkarni is a highly respected and a well-known figure in the world of dance, while Karen Greenspan is a New York City-based dance journalist and frequent contributor to several publications.

There were seven different groups of highly talented dancers, that performed different dance styles, each telling a story with amazing and unique techniques.

‘Sama: Equanimity and Equity’ by Kaustavi Sarkar. Sama: Equality nurtures

Equanimity is a meditation on spiritual humanism rallying against casteist injustice. was presented in the Odissi dance style.

‘Elements’ by Sonali Skandan, depicting the impact of climate change and human destruction shift the balance of nature was presented in Bharatnatyam style.  

‘(No)man’ by Ishita Mili used Bharatanatyam, Hip Hop, Street Styles, and Chhau to weaving together their signature fusion movement, rhythmic footwork and world music in their performance.

‘The Wild Swans’ by Dr. Krishnakali Dasgupta, a concise dramatization of Hans Christian Anderson’s -The Wild Swans. The story was an allegory on ostracization based on blind prejudices and victory of determination to break that cycle, which was performed in Manipuri dance style.

‘Nimitta – Amba Shikhandi’ by Shila Mehta performed in Kathak dance style in the Lucknow gharana. The dance piece drew on the character and story of Shikhandi in the epic Mahabharata, who was born a woman but became a man and the cause (Nimitta) for Bhashma’s defeat sealing the fate of the great battle between Kauravas and Pandavas.

‘An Impossible Romance’ by Kaustavi Sarkar depicted a spectacular love affair between the cloud and the lightning. The peacock in this story is the prime mover and manipulator. He lures the cloud towards the lightning, very well anticipating the cloud’s imminent death in the hands of the lightning.

‘Kali’ by Bharathi Penneswaran created magic on the stage. This dance piece explores Kali’s tantric roots as Shakti, the innate energy that has been dormant for millennia.

“Being the first Nritya Darpan, it has been a very stressful but extremely satisfying experience”, said Dr Ashok Chaudhary. “I have received numerous messages with loads of praises for the show. I am thrilled that the audiences have welcomed this festival with open arms. I am extremely thankful to those who have unconditionally supported me”, he added.

We can vouch for the fact that there has never been such a unique presentation of dance, that wonderfully showcased the classical forms of the performing art with a fascinating amalgamation of Indian and Western styles. Meant for a niche audience, this festival enthralls the audience with its spellbinding performances and thought-provoking themes. We look forward to seeing more of these masterpieces in the coming years.

The concept of Nritya Darpan has been developed by the Founder and the President of IHCA-NJ, Dr. Ashok Chaudhary, to promote exceptionally talented local artists and dance groups and to bring communities together to discuss various social issues through performing arts. Dr Chaudhary is also known to organize the annual short play festival ‘Natya Darpan’. It that has been lauded by the audiences and supported by the Middlesex County NJ and the Consulate General of India in New York.

Photos Courtesy: Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

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