Nritya Darpan 2024 Creates Magic with Spellbound Audience!


Consul General of India (NY) Hon. Binaya Pradhan during lamp lighting ceremony – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

Our Bureau

New Brunswick, NJ

Nritya Darpan 2024, the one-day dance festival presented by the Indian Heritage and Cultural Association (IHCA-NJ), in partnership with the Consulate General of India, New York was held on Saturday, May 25th, 2024, at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC) in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Dr. Ashok Chaudhary, Founder and President of IHCA-NJ – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

The festival began with a speech by Dr. Ashok Chaudhary, the Founder and President of IHCA-NJ, followed by a lamp lighting ceremony graced by Chief Guest and Guest of Honor, Consul General of India (NY) Honorable Mr. Binaya Pradhan, Founder Dr. Ashok Chaudhary, Festival Curator Dr. Maya Kulkarni, Festival Advisor Karen Greenspan, Executive Team Members Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani and Nitin Ashtekar. The lamp lighting ceremony was followed by a speech by the Consul General.

Consul General of India (NY) Hon. Binaya Pradhan – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

The concept of Nritya Darpan was developed by Dr. Chaudhary to promote exceptionally talented local artists and dance groups. Initiated in 2022, the festival showcases exceptional performing artists from the tri-state area who move beyond the classical Indian dance forms and bring a contemporary vision to their creations. The professional dancers and choreographers who are experts in Indian classical dance forms and are trying to sustain the rich heritage and culture of India in the US by adopting various dance forms including Western dance styles and fusion, were chosen to participate in the dance festival.

Exec Member Nitin Ashtekar, Dr. Ashok Chaudhary, Consul General Hon. Binaya Pradhan, Exec Member Nutan Kalamdani, Festival Curator Dr. Maya Kulkarni and Advisor Karen Greenspan – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

This year five multi-talented US-based dance companies, performed five high-quality dance dramas, each telling a story with amazing and unique techniques and using various Indian classical dance forms in fusion with tap dancing.

The dance dramas were selected by the very talented curators Dr. Maya Kulkarni-Chheda and Karen Greenspan who led the painstaking task of selecting the best entries among the large pool of entries across the USA. Dr. Maya Kulkarni is a highly respected and well-known figure in the world of dance, while Karen Greenspan is a New York City-based dance journalist, writer, and special advisor to Nritya Darpan.

Still from ‘Apsara’ – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

Shubhamani Chandrasekhar brought to life the qualities of freedom and self-assurance exemplified by the celestial beings called Apsaras in a duet titled ‘Apsara’ set in Bharatnatyam dance style. In the realm of mystique transcending the need for introduction, there existed beings whose names alone bore the weight of beauty, charm, and glamour. They weren’t merely celestial entities; instead, these embodiments of freedom and boldness wielded unmatched power in ancient times. In the tapestry of their existence, the three among the myriad Apsaras – Rahasyam, Rupam, and Gunam, each a paramount adornment, seamlessly intertwine three essential qualities. Rahasyam with her mysterious allure, Rupam with her glamorous charm, and Gunam with her prowess in music. A lively and witty dance piece that involved interaction with the audience, gave us the true meaning of an Apsara!

Still from ‘All That Lies’ – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

Parul Shah performed the piece titled ‘All That Lies’. The dance piece performed in Kathak and Contemporary style was a call to reclaim identities that Western constructs have historically defined and controlled. Shedding light on the little-known story of the first Indian dancers to perform in America as part of a comedic opera called ‘Zanina.’, this work examines how Colonialism and Orientalist tropes sit deep within the perception of Indian classical dance in America. With an impulse to disrupt, Shah attempted to challenge Western stereotypes and expectations of Indian dance through the usage of movement and text.

Still from ‘Taalam’ – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

Vikas Arun and his company Project Convergence, presented ‘Taalam’ (Rhythm), a euphoric union of Bharatnatyam and American tap dance celebrating the universal language of rhythm. Taalam (Rhythm) has traveled from 18th century India to 20th century New York. The jugalbandi between the Bharatnatyam dancers and the tap dancers created a euphoric celebration of diversity, providing a visual metaphor for how seamlessly Indian and American cultures can complement each other. A flawless performance to say the least!

Still from ‘Shadjam’ – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

Bharathi Penneswaran, artistic director and co-founder of Aalokam, performed two comedic creations, ‘Chahiti’ and ‘Shadjam’, along with her ensemble. These works blended the narrative aspect of Bharatanatyam with Penneswaran’s bold and playful sense of humor. ‘Chahiti’ depicted the playful facet of a young ‘Nayaki’ who is madly in love with her elusive husband and her chase is portrayed through the classical dance form. The song, sung by the famous Channulal Misra, was adapted to the traditional Bharatanatyam repertoire. ‘Shadjam’ illustrated a beautiful evening as three young women encounter young men leading to a dance of excitement, teasing and flirtation. It was a fun piece, full of joy and playful antics of these young women and set to a section of Akshara, a longer music composition by Bala Skandan.

Still from ‘Jatayu’ – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

Mesma Belsaré, a captivating performer, created ‘Jatayu’, a work that investigated this cameo character – the king of birds in the Hindu epic Ramayana. The piece was choreographed by the show’s curator Maya Kulkarni in the ‘Shilpanatanam’ genre, a narrative dance form pioneered by Kulkarni that stretches the boundaries of Indian classical forms to non-traditional themes and expressions. Jatayu the king of birds is a keen devotee of the divine king Rama and an important cameo character in the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’. This dance piece unfolded different dimensions of Jatayu. Mesma’s incredible strength, stamina, and expressions, portraying the continuous quiver and detailed demeanor of the bird left the audience totally amazed and many in tears.

L to R: Dr. Ashok Chaudhary, Isha Chaudhary, Dance Performers of the evening, and Dr. Maya Kulkarni – Photo courtesy Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani

It is an understatement to say that there has never been such a unique presentation of storytelling through 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 enthralled the audience with its spellbinding performances and thought-provoking themes. The Consul General, who attended the festival with his family, sat through the entire show, despite his busy schedule. Admitting to not being a huge fan of classical dance, he was totally mesmerized by the quality of the festival and was full of praise for the entire production. To describe these masterpieces and the passionate performers in mere words will not justify this remarkable celebration of art. One must witness this phenomenal festival oneself, to truly enjoy its true essence.

Kudos to the producers, the team, the choreographers, and the performers for an Exceptional show!

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