High energy folk dances -phag, ghumar and dhumal-from Haryana were performed at the Haryana Folk dance festival

Iridescent umbrella skirts swished and swirled, jewellery tinkled in joyous symphony, the nagara (a folk drum) and the been (a wind instrument) blared in unison. The sights, sounds and colours of a typical Haryanvi village came alive as the young dancers owned the stage with their energetic footwork and lively expressions.

The Haryana folk dance festival organised by the Bharat Bhavan (Dept. of Culture, Government of Kerala) at the Kerala Fine Arts Hall was aimed at showcasing the State’s rich folklore and tradition. For those who have not been to the Hindi heartland, the performance brought a whiff of its rural life. All the dances were high-energy, with not a lazy moment in between. “We chose five typical folk numbers, so that it conveys in a capsule the true essence of Haryanvi folk,” says Malvika Pandit, the choreographer and co-ordinator of the group. Originally a classical dancer, Malvika handles folk dance with equal ease. “These programmes help keep alive people’s interest in folk dancing. The enthusiasm it evokes is unparalleled,” she adds.

Celebrating the rural

The songs largely celebrated agrarian bounty, love and the joy of togetherness. “The ‘phag’ number, for instance, is performed by the rural folk to celebrate the colours and sounds of spring. It is something like a Holi dance,” she says. Performed usually during February-March (Phalgun), when the spring is on and the crops are growing well, the Phag is a high-energy dance involving innumerable twirls and swift footwork. The ‘dhamal’, too, is another dance form that celebrates the spring. While the girls in the group excelled in their act, the boys could do with a bit more practice. Lackadaisical audio management, too, was a constant niggle.

The ‘ghumar’, a dance performed by the girls, was one of the highlights of the evening. The girls, clad in the traditional daaman (long, flared skirts), chundi (brightly coloured veil-like dupata), kurtis and borla (an ornament worn on the forehead) presented a visual treat. Their eyes and smiles keeping pace with their arms and feet. “This dance is performed during Diwali by girls on their way to the temple. They form a circle and start singing, too, in the villages,” says Malvika. The dance form has its roots in the villages of Rajasthan, but is also popular in Laharu, Dadri and some parts of Hissar and Bhiwani in Haryana.

The one-and-a-half hour show included not just dances, but individual performances by experienced artistes on the been and the nagara, too. While a few dances had pre-recorded songs, the orchestra accompanied the dancers. The entire orchestra, for a traditional folk dance would include the sarangi, been, dholak and khartal. However, the show had the tasha (a traditional folk instrument of the kettle drum variety), the dholak, the nagara and the been.

Though it has a relatively recent history, Haryana has a folk tradition that is deeply linked to the country’s cultural heritage, says Malvika. She used the traditional costumes for the dancers, apart from a few modifications here and there for convenience’s sake.

The first of their performances was in Thiruvananthapuram and the team, after their show in Kochi, would perform in Kottayam, too.