Tribal dances from India showcased

Energy, vigour and unbridled joie de vivre marked the dancers from Mallika Sarabhai's Darpana Academy in Ahmedabad as they performed a variety of tribal dances from across India. Adi Nriitya, or India's indigenous dances, was held in the auditorium of the Quai Branly Museum devoted to tribal, aboriginal and primitive arts, opening a year-long Indian art and culture festival in Paris and the French provinces entitled Namaste France.

The tribes of central India, especially Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand as well as Gujarat or far flung Manipur have a rich music and dance heritage and the troupe offered a varied palette that included traditional dances of the the Kalbelias, the Bhils, the Gonds, the Rathwas or the Manipuri Maos in its 90-minute presentation.

The performance was however not to everyone's liking. “India is such a sophisticated civilisation. We are familiar with Indian classical dance, its challenges and difficulties, its beauty and grace. All the vigour and enthusiasm in the world cannot make up for that. The costumes were colourful but there was a sameness to the dances that ultimately made the evening boring. Also such dances should not be presented out of their natural habitat which is that of a village or a forest. Put on stage without live musicians and the right setting the dances appear crude. I felt we were watching the tribal dances often performed in Africa to greet visiting dignitaries! I saw several people leave the hall and was tempted to go myself,” said Ms. Jeanne Rosny, a ballet teacher. There were several similar remarks.

Values shared

Inaugurating the festival, ICCR chairman and former Union Minister, Karan Singh, said: “India and France share the cherished values of human dignity, democracy, human rights and peaceful co-existence. The recently held Festival of France ‘Bonjour India' brought about a new level of understanding about France, and I am sure this festival will do the same in France about the Indian culture and traditions.”

The Indian embassy has worked remarkably hard to make this programme a success. A year ago the ICCR was fully mobilised, making the festival of India in China a success, and the Indian embassy was roped in a bare four months ago to pull this year-long tide of events into a single coherent, cohesive fabric. The embassy has been instrumental in getting the government of India involved in several ongoing cultural events in various cities and arts centres in France.

In an interview with The Hindu, Mr. Singh revealed that plans for a special Cultural Centre for India along the lines of the Nehru Centre in London were steadily coming to fruition. A building has been selected and flagged to the French government. “The signature may not take place tomorrow but the event is not far away. We have to see if the building is big enough for our requirements such as an auditorium, library, teaching halls, art gallery etc. and if a conversion is possible.

However, as it stands, the building we have in mind has already been taken off the auction block,” Mr. Singh said. A cultural centre in Paris could cost anywhere between 7 and 10 million euros.

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