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May 2002

"Auroville is dancing"

- by Tim


Offering: Jothi and Srimoyi dance Odissi - photo Pino

The above was the announcement heralding Auroville's first ever Festival of Dance on March 30th, a wonderful evening inclusive of everything from classical Indian dances to Spanish, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, Afro-funk and improvisational modern dance plus freestyle aerobics, all choreographed in Auroville, and performed by more than 15 groups - around 100 dancers! - ranging in age from young children (the first half of the programme) to mature adults (the second half). The audience, jam-packed into the 850-seat Sri Aurobindo Auditorium, was absolutely marvellous: an enthusiastic - often excited - mixture of Aurovilians and local villagers, many of whose children or friends were performing.

The Black Cats pumping it out - photo Pino

As this was the first time for many of the performers that they had appeared on stage before an audience, some were naturally very nervous beforehand. This situation was not helped by the fact that the first rehearsal three days before the event was a bit of a shambles, leaving many worried as to what lay ahead. However, the second rehearsal - with costumes - was much more coherent. Finally, on the night itself, everything seemed to fall into place, from the lighting and stage work to Grace's informal and enjoyable coordinating/announcing role and the dancing, probably inspired by the wonderful audience, who spurred the performers on and made them feel that their long period of intensive preparation - in some cases as long as a year - had all been worthwhile.

A touch of Spain: Suryamayi and Jivatma performing Sevillanas - photo Ireno

In a long programme lasting over three hours it seems a bit unfair to highlight individual numbers, because ALL were enjoyable, but from the audience's reaction it seemed a few had special popular appeal. Among these one has to mention from the first half of the programme the Spanish Sevillanas performed by Jivatma and Suryamayi, the Tamil children's 'Kolattam' folk dance with sticks, and the last item, 'Thillani', to modern Indian music, the latter two both performed with exceptional precision and grace. Then in the second half of the programme there was Aurelio's group with their dynamic 'Dance Collage', the classic Odissi dances of Srimoyi and Jothi, and Bharatanatyam of Blanchefleur (the latter showing that a Westerner can also acquire the skills to put on a good performance), the modern jazz dance 'Warriors of Nature' with accompanying film shot by Brian in Utilité canyon, 'The Black Cats' aerobics team number led by Bobby (performing with a broken toe!), and the final beautiful and innovative 'net' number with Jutta, Daria, Aurosylle and Veronique to mysterious, stirring music.

As to the performers, their experience seems well summed up by one of the participants: "We had the tremendous fun of working with our fellow performers towards a shared common goal, and the joy of achieving it after so many high energy practice sessions and so much fun and laughter. The sense of being a closely knit team and of succeeding together was, for those of us who had never done anything like it before, just fantastic, really euphoric, a memory to treasure all our lives. In fact I know from talking with others that we remained on a 'high' for days afterwards as a result of what we experienced."

As an event intended to help Auroville integrate, through increased understanding and appreciation of each other's art and culture as experienced through numbers ranging from ballet to Bharatanatyam, it was a resounding success; a fun, fun, fun evening and milestone in Auroville's cultural history; a night to remember for all those who took part on stage or in the audience; and a night when Shiva himself, as Lord of the Dance, seemed to make His presence felt among us.

Thank you Grace. Thank you everyone.

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