The crowd that gathered at Gokaraju Laila Gangaraju Kala Vedika, Vijayawada, for five days witnessed a number of exquisite folk dance performances from different parts of the country.

The dance fest was held to mark the silver jubilee celebrations of South Zone Cultural Centre (S.Z.C.C), Thanjavur.

The five-day treat began with a fine Kuchipudi mini ballet Nrityakshari innovatively choreographed and directed by K.V. Satyanrayana of Eluru. Troupes from Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, West Bengal, Odisa, Haryana and Bihar presented their native dances with charm and vigour. The group from Punjab performed bhangra but unfortunately, they and many other troupes were allotted only 10 to 15 minutes while a few Carnatic classical music items and even some classical dances like Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam and Bharathanatyam which ideally should not have found place in this folk arts festival, were allotted more time.

This gesture of the organisers drew criticism from many in the audience. The reason is anybody’s guess. The highly attractive Bhangra, led by Kushvinder Singh, was given less than four minutes on the first day.

The Manipuri troupe thrilled the audience with their lively Thang ta swordfight. Sambalpuri dance of the Odissi dance and ‘Ghoomar’ from Haryana were impressive with rhythm-oriented performances.

One of the highlights was the thrilling ‘Roybens’ dance of West Bengal in which the members showcased their amazing balancing acts with a pot precariously placed on the dancers’ heads. This performance recently bagged the National Award.

The second day began with a charming folk dance of North Karnataka region called ‘Puja Kuneeta’ in which the members performed stunning feats such as removing a pin with the eyelids and walking on glasses. Veerabhadra Natyam, from Godavari districts, was thrillingly performed by the artistes carrying long iron soolams on one end with their mouths and with flames lit on the other end. It was a hair-rising performance to the thrilling beat of dol and dhanka.

The South Karnataka troupe performed ‘Patta Kuneeta’, a traditional puja dance usually performed in village festivals.

On the third day ‘Tappeta Gullu’, a scintillating drum dance performed by nearly 15-member troupe hailing from North Andhra was one of the highlights. The members wore tin drums on their chests and ‘muvvalu’ on their ankles, sang and danced dancing to the beat of the drums and performed balancing acts simultaneously.

The third day’s items started with enjoyable Kuchipudi items performed by Bh.Venkatarama Sarma’s troupe. ‘Garadi’ folk dance presented by a troupe from Pondicherry to the beat of tasha, ramadolu and large ankle bells and singing the praise of Lord Rama was also impressive. The group from Gujarat performed the charming ‘Siddi Dhamal’. The subject was the warm relationship between tribal people and the flora and fauna in their region. The team used dhanka, dolu and conch.

On the fourth day, Mohiniattam of Kerala, ‘Phag’ dance of Haryana, ‘Chari’ dance of Rajasthan, ‘Thiruvattirakalli’ of Kerala, ‘Paniyari’ of Rajasthan immensely delighted the crowd.

On the final day, the performances began with a thrilling Bhangra of Punjab and Odissi ‘Sambalpuri’ performed with dol, dolak, drums and flute.

Other attractive items on the last day were Haryana’s ‘Ghoomar’, Maharashtra’s traditional ‘Lazim’ dance, ‘Phanit’ from Chattisgadh and ‘Dangta’ dance of marshal arts.

The five-day colourful event came to a close with folk songs of Andhra Pradesh. All the artistes received mementos from the director of S.Z.C.C Dr.Sajith, Sivasankaran and Rajagopal.

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