Prayaag 2021 to find out if classical dance works without a live audience

Does Corona and social distancing mean giving up on sociocultural ties too? “No” says noted Odissi dance guru and exponent Shubhada Varadkar who is presenting her film – a 30-minute docu-feature themed on 'Dance in times of corona,' along with German flamenco exponent Catarina Mora as a part of the Prayaag Dance Festival 2021. The film - named after the historic Indian place where two of its iconic rivers meet in a confluence to mark the coming together of two schools of thought- will be presented along with a bevy of Indian classical dancers in a specially curated festival presented in collaboration with the ICCR.

“We want to make visible what happens to a dancer who does not have a stage or a studio and we want to show that dance cannot die because dance is an omniscient art for the those who dance,” explains Varadkar who adds, “While dance itself brings together power, breath and beauty, it can also unite the world without words, just through sheer aesthetics and expressions.”

Mora speaks of the way the lockdown has helped artists introspect and dig deep within to unlock what has been distilled over years of experience. “Ultimately it became a time to reflect on whether dance as an articulated expression can go beyond tours, performances, masterclasses, lec-dems, presentations, and arts education,” she says and Varadkaar quips in with: “At the end of the day every artiste needs to organically connect with what s/he is performing. Without that the very essence of art, especially the performing arts will die.”

Can performing artistes do that without a live audience's reaction and appreciation? A template for that may emerge with Prayaag 2021.

Over the last four weeks, danceuses Varadkar and Mora (in Mumbai and Stuttgart respectively) have gone with a trio of dancers each through their cities and filmed them dancing in different places. Each dancer had the opportunity to express themselves personally for about three minutes. Short texts in their own language and in English, make a statement about the times that we live in without stages, theaters and dance studios. “The decisive message that emerges from the editing of the various films is the understanding of boundaries through dance, which has not suffered any withdrawals in its beauty and expressiveness, which continues to exist and has become the elixir of life for many artists,” says Mora.

The docu-feature to be showcased at the 'Weinfest' of Stuttgart meets Mumbai 2021 will have its Indian premiere on Monday and will be part of a special three-day long virtual celebration of dance where both the dance gurus will be in a discussion with noted Kathak exponent Piyush Raj on the new challenges facing the world of performing arts in general and the world of dance in particular.

While the Atrrayee Chowdhury (Odissi), Shweta Venkatesh (Bharatanatyam), Guru Keka Sinha (Kathak) will perform on the first day of the festival on Friday, the 12th of March, the next day will see Mitali Varadkar and Shreya Sabharwal come together for a duet (Odissi), followed by Meenu Thakur (Kuchipudi) and Guru Lata Surendran (Bharatanatyam). On the last day of the festival 13th March Kankana Bhattacharya (Kathak) will first take the stage followed bySnigdha Menon (Bharatnatyam). The finale of the festival will see the dance-guru Shubhada Varadkar (Odissi) herself take the stage.

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