Indian Dance

Last Saturday, just before Ksenia took off back to NYC (and actually was lucky enough to get out of the floods on time), we went to her Indian Classical Dance teacher’s performance. Ksenia had taken up classes a while ago with that teacher and is trying to get her foot and finger movements straight, which is quite a challenge. Of course, I know nothing about Indian Classical Dance, but basically, a lot of them, if not all, have religious roots, there is not just music, but also vocals, and it seems like the vocals tell a religios story, which is then acted out by dancing and by the all-important hand movements, where every single hand gesture has a very particular meaning. So if the hands and arms are one way, it means “Lion”, and held a slightly or not so slightly different way, it means “House”. Or something like that.

So the art is then in the execution of these movements, there really is not all that much space for interpretation – and improvisation or any other Western concept of dance is entirely foreign. Of course, in the West, art is most of the time all about me, myself, and I, so this is a whole different world. Apparently, if not for the Love Of God, then why bother dancing or being an artist? Unfortunately, if one has no clue what the story is, or what the hand gestures mean, or how they should look like, if executed correctly, then watching a performance like this, is a bit of a challenge. I can’t say I hated it, but I was definitely looking for the subtitles somewhere.

The teacher’s husband very helpfully spoke some introductory words at the beginning of each segment, but of course it was in Hindi, and I could only make out a Shiva here and a Vishnu there. My seat neighbor tried to translate a little bit, but it was pretty hopeless. The fact that these introductory words tended to drag into rather longish 15 minute monologues didn’t exactly help. But certainly the costumes were very colorful, and her student dancers very very cute and dedicated, and the whole thing had a nice family affair touch to it, even though it was performed in a real auditorium, with a light manager, a sound manager, etc. I didn’t quite get the light effects, becuse they were a bit like Disco, and it was too dark to take any good pictures during the performance, but maybe it was meant less for entertainment as for reflection and devotion, so I should shut up.

Surprisingly, maybe, my seat neighbor knew all the tunes and all the lyrics, and he was happily humming along. The teacher’s husband’s words also seemed to make an impression on the audience, and he spoke with a lot of pathos. In between, there were flowers and ovations, I suspect for the benefactors and supporters of the dance company, who were called on stage as well, gave a longish nice speech, and then went back to their seats. The auditorium was sadly empty, and a lot of people left early. The whole thing was over two hours long, and they started maybe one hour later than what the invitations had indicated. The Temptation hipsters would happily refer to that as Indian Stretching Time (IST), and I can’t argue with that.

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