The New Performance Festival at Ranga Shankara

One of the difficulties of coming back after an extended absence is being unable to immediately participate in the events in the neighbourhood. I completely missed the beginning of the festival by the Indian Foundation for the Arts , and appear to have missed some good events.

Indian Foundation for the Arts

However, I was able to go to one of the performances yesterday, and came away impressed.

The performance was by Astad Deboo and the Pungcholom dancing drummers from Manipur .

Pungcholom is a Tandav dance form that is performed as an invocation preceding the Sankirtana, ad also as a prelude to the Ras Leela in Manipur, according to the excellent brochure provided by the IFA.

The initial number was rather slow, but later, in items which utilized classical western music and vocals, Manipuri numbers, and rendition of “bol”s (rhythmic phrases orally said), the tempo picked up considerably.

Sumptuous costumes and excellent lighting ( Ratan J Batliboi) added considerable appeal to the presentation. Though Astad introduced the person in charge of lighting, he did not tell us who designed the costumes…perhaps he designed them himself?

The dancers/drummers used so many things as percussion instruments….the stage, their bodies, their mouths and tongues, cymbals, the dhols…it was really amazing. They were extremely well synchronized and very athletic indeed. Their performance was a masterpiece of body control and agility.

Eight dancers and Astad Deboo brought the stage alive; the event lasted closer to 90 minutes than the 70 stated in the brochure, but we were all riveted to our seats and were glad about the extended time! However, this did mean that I had to go home and could not participate in the post-performance discussion.

Pungcholom dancing drummers RS 26028

What was amazing to me was how the dancers made percussion instruments of so many things…their mouths and tongues, their own bodies, the stage, as well as the drums (these appeared only in the last number.)

Here’s Astad Deboo with Guru Seityaban:

Astad Deboo and Guru Seityaban rhythm divine Ranga Shankara 260208

“The Rhythm Divine” is on today, too, at Ranga Shankara, and Feb 28 and 29, “Vyuti–Inflections”, a re-interpretation of Bharathanatyam, promises to be interesting too.

Strongly recommended!

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