Kathakali Dancer. Image from Google Images.

This weekend the Battery Dance Company is kicking off its annual Downtown Dance Festival, New York’s “longest-running free public dance festival.” From August 14-20, you’ll have the chance to see Battery Dance joined by companies from both India and Japan.

And did I mention that it’s free?

From the press release:

This year’s DDF will feature Kathakali dancers and musicians from India,
supported by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), with whom BDC
has long collaborated, both in India and as part of an early effort to
promote Indian dance in the U.S. The ICCR will be covering all costs to
bring over an esteemed Kathakli dance company, Guru Radha Mohanan & Troupe.
Guru Radha Mohanan will make his U.S. debut in the festival.

A disciple of the world renowned exponent Guru Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair,
Radha Mohanan is a master not only of Kathakali–the highly stylized
classical form of Indian dance theater known for its elaborate costumes and
make up–but also of the Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam forms. His troupe has
performed in Greece, Germany, U.S.S.R, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and
other countries. He is the founder director of the Kalari Institute located
in New Delhi, India, which is dedicated to the promotion and dissemination
of Indian classical dance forms.

Here’s the schedule of events:

Saturday, August 14–Sunday, August 15, 1:00–4:00 P.M.
Location: The Lawn at Battery Park, adjacent to State Street at Pearl Street
By Subway: 1 to South Ferry; 4/5 to Bowling Green; R/W to Whitehall

Monday, August 17–Friday, August 21, 12:00 P.M.–2:00 P.M.
Location: One New York Plaza
Directions: Water and Whitehall Streets
By Subway: 1 to South Ferry, R to Whitehall, 4/5 to Bowling Green

Unfortunately, I’m out of town (and will be for a while) so I won’t be able to attend the festival myself. But feel free to send in pictures or clips! I’d love to put them up in a later post.

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Today it’s time to put the spotlight on another classical Indian dance: Kuchipudi. Kuchipudi originated in Andrha Pradesh, India, and is stylistically similar to Bharatnatyam, although there are subtle differences between the art forms, such as in costume (Kuchipudi costumes have one large pleated fan, whereas Bharatatnayam costumes have a tier of three fans) and steps.

Of all the classical Indian dances that I’d like to view live, Kuchipudi ranks up in the top three, most notably because of one unique feature–the Tarangam where the dancer dances upon a brass plate.

Image from Google Images

The sheer concentration it takes to pull this off in a performance amazes me. The Kuchipudi dancer stands atop a brass plate, balancing a vessel of water on her head and two diyas, or small oil lamps, in each of her hands. During the performance, the dancer moves the brass plate with only her feet, while maintaining her balance with the lamps and vessel to a continuous rhythm. By the end of the dance, she usually extinguishes the lamps or washes her hands with water from the vessel balanced atop her head.

Recently, Kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivalingappa ended her week-long stint at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts. Her performance garnered a rave review from the New York Times. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like she’ll be in the tri-state area anytime soon, but for those interested in catching her at some point can head over to her website and find tour dates here.

Image taken from Google Images