With movies dedicated to the Bollywood style of dancing and TV shows glamourising Western ballroom forms and contemporary dance, Indian classical styles are getting relegated to the background. Perhaps it’s time for Mumbaiites to explore their cultural roots, and there’s no better way to do so than through the 22nd Raindrops Festival of Indian Classical Dance.
The Festival was set up by the Sam Ved Society for Performing Arts, helmed by Kathak dancer Uma Dogra and has so far provided a stage to over 200 performers. A Kathak dancer herself, Dogra wanted to start a festival that showcased dancers who’ve practised their whole lives in order to become soloists in classical dance.
“These days people perform for 3-4 minutes on TV and get instant fame,” says Dogra. “Through the 22nd Raindrops Festival, I want to give a platform to young dancers who’ve given 10-15 years of their lives to a classical dance form, because that is how much it takes to become a soloist.”
The 22nd edition of the festival will see performances in Kathak, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam, Bharata Natyam and Odissi by newly decorated dancers who’ve mastered their art form. Each festival ends with a show-stopping final act by a senior artiste. This year, that honour has gone to V Anuradha Singh, a Kathak dancer extraordinaire who will perform on July 7.
Belonging to the rarely seen Raigarh Gharana of Kathak, Singh has been performing worldwide for more than 20 years. She has performed in more than 150 dance festivals of great repute, and is a recipient of many awards, including the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award. The last time she performed in Mumbai was two years ago, at the NCPA.
“I saw her perform in Bhopal, and was really impressed by her footwork,” Dogra says. “Which is why I asked her to be a part of the festival. Mumbai should definitely have a taste of her work.”
Singh has also been a pioneer in what she calls Ghungroo Vadan — using the ghungroos tied to her feet as musical instruments to compose and create music. “There hasn’t been a single musical instrument played by feet in the world,” Singh says. “That’s why I created Ghungroo Vadan, to create music with my feet.”
She plans to perform Ghungroo Vadan for 5-6 minutes at super fast speeds as part of her repertoire at the Raindrops Festival, along with Kathak’s typical Thumris, Chakradhar Paran, Sufiana Kathak and so on. Her performance will last an hour. The highlight of this performance is what the Raigarh Gharana is famous for — chakkars (circles). She will do as many as 44 at one time and the entire piece will have about 300-400, enough to give even the Tasmanian devil vertigo.
Singh, however, is unfazed. With her experience and her talent, a recital that lasts an hour is a piece of cake. She rehearses whenever she has time, sometimes even at midnight, and spends whatever free time she has researching the dance form itself. “No one else is doing what I am — researching Kathak Gurus’ works from 100 years ago,” she says.
With her recital in Mumbai, she aims at reaching out to a diverse audience. While her Ghungroo Vadan will attract pure classical music lovers, her kathak will be for those who like semi-classical dance. Her Sufiana Kathak will appeal to the younger generation that’s used to seeing a certain style of dance in its movies.