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Screen + Sound + Stage
June 04, 2014

Musical in the Making

Text by Nittal Chandarana

One folk dance festival. Six countries. 100 dancers and musicians. Verve brings to you a folk dancer’s diary of experiences from Portugal

The last time Egypt, USA, India, Peurto Rico, Portugal and Canary Islands congregated was at the International Folk Dance Festival – FolkFaro, Portugal. What does it take to participate in one of these festivals? A group of enthusiastic dancers, live music, dances native to your country – not classical, certainly not popular or a fusion with the West, but fun folksy stuff. A folk dance festival is nothing but a hub for countries from all over the world to participate in, showcase their culture, imbibe some of the others’; a place where individuality is celebrated and collaboration encouraged.

Festival Diary
Two months of practice, balancing college and work along with rehearsal, 22 eager girls of Vaishali Sagar’s Kalanjay Academy with musicians in tow set off on a Euro adventure. From the quaint little town of Faro to the prim city of Moura with compulsively white cottages, from the cobble-stoned streets of Loulé to a day in fabulous Spain – we performed everywhere. There was a special kind of pride performing in navvaris and ghaghra cholis and hoisting our flag in a foreign land. Days were filled with marvelling at the cities, conducting workshops for the city dwellers (a 100 people jumped to the beat of the dhol and swayed their hips in the Indian workshop), participating in theirs, and performing with them. Evenings usually consisted of performing on make-shift stages built across Faro. Nights were full of jam sessions – songs sung in five different languages, bonding over song and dance, silly games played and a mutual exchange of cultures. The Americans inevitably wondered whether we could speak English, but given a few days, revealed their global side by quoting dialogues from Lagaan. The Egyptians were absolutely delightful and the closest to our kind of culture. The Portuguese – so very warm and played the perfect hosts, and the Peurto Ricans, the most professional of the lot.

India was well celebrated at the festival. Our country wins in its sheer variety of dance, colours of the costume and the beautiful musical amalgamation of shehnai and dhol. We usually began with balancing pots of fire on our heads for the soft Chirmi, picked up pace with the Teratali and then tried to match up to the rapid beats of the Kalbeliya for the Rajasthani showcase. The ghaghra took centre-stage in Haryanvi even as logic went for a toss and madness erupted in the form of Mariamma – a devotional dance from the South worshipping the Goddess of the same name. It all ended with the sensual Lavani from Maharashtra and a grand procession in the form of Visarjan of the elephant God. Our unlikely audience understood. They received the message through the shingle of lezims and the clanging of jhaanjh. A God had been sent away and engulfed by the sea. Tears. Applause. Delight!

Festivals are… just that. People coming together, eating, dancing, merry-making. We realised that we never had to ape the West to be one with them but had to just go back to our roots. Cheesy as it may sound, they do present a beautiful exchange of culture and present to you the reality of the world being your playground and travel, an integral part of a happy and aware existence. It was a very different group of girls that returned home with memories of the ten happiest days of their lives.

Another set of earnest girls from Kalanjay left for Bulgaria last month and yet another will, to Svetlovsky Bal At Bojkovice Festival, Czech Republic this month to make their own memories and to dance their dance….

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