Tag Archives: San Francisco International Arts Festival

SF International Arts Festival: Indian Classical Dance

The San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) is pleased to announce a day-long, two concert dance program featuring four different Indian classical dance companies embodying a variety of styles and regional influences.

Indicative of India’s east coast is Guru Shradha led by founding director Niharika Mohanty specializing in the Odissi dance form. Representing the north is Shambhavi’s International School of Kathak (artistic director Shambhavi Dandekar). These exemplary companies are joined by two practitioners of the southern form of Bharatanatyam, featuring the much respected Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose (artistic director Mythili Kumar) and an upcoming ensemble Samudra Dance Creations founded by well known dancer Jyotsna Vaidee that premiered a full length production on women’s empowerment at the 2018 Festival to critical acclaim.

Festival director, Andrew Wood said of the program, “We are very excited to have such great artists representing some of the rich and varied traditions of India performing in the Festival. Our primary goal in putting the program together was to celebrate the vibrant and innovative next generation of Indian and Indian-American choreographers making classical Indian dance in the United States in the 21st Century. We are especially interested in posing the question about the future direction of the art form as it exists in this country.”

Guru Shradha and Abhinaya Dance Company will perform at 2:00pm and SISK and Samudra Dance Creations will perform at 5:30pm.

Single tickets can be purchased for as little as $15 during the Early Bird period in the month of March. After that tickets are $25 in advance or $28 at the door. After March the best deal to see both performances is a $40 two-show pass. Children’s tickets are $15.

There will also be a panel discussion moderated by India Currents journalist Priya Das featuring the artistic directors of all four companies at 4:00pm. Food will be available for purchase.

The details of each company’s performances are as follows:

 

Guru Shradha (USA)

An Enchanting Odissi Odyssey (45 minutes)

Shared bill with Abhinaya Dance Company

Odissi dance, one of the oldest surviving Indian dance forms, is captivating through its unique grace and poses evoking temple dance sculptures. An Enchanting Odissi Odyssey takes the audience through a spiritual journey showcasing contemporary and traditional choreography revealing a tapestry of its devotional, emotive, intricate dance and haunting music.

 

Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose (USA)

Stories of Justice (2018, San Francisco Premiere) (45 minutes)

Shared bill with Guru Shradha

Stories of Justice will examine the non-violent resistance strategies of Martin Luther King, Jr. to demonstrate that the fight for social justice is ongoing and that past struggles provide lessons that enable us to confront our current problems.

 

Samudra Dance Creations (USA)

Earth Speaks (World Premiere) (45 minutes)

Shared bill with SISK Dance

Earth Speaks is a dance-music production that explores humankind’s intricate physical, emotional and spiritual relationship to the EARTH (PRITHVI in sanskrit).  When that connection, that umbilical cord is disturbed or even severed what happens to our being, our existence? The production incorporates Indian mythology, Greek mythology and contemporary stories to tell the story of Mother Earth in HER voice.

 

Shambhavi’s International School of Kathak (SISK) (USA)

Horizons… Kathak and beyond! (45 minutes)

Shared bill with Samudra Dance Creations

Horizons…Kathak and Beyond is a beautiful array of choreographic work in Indian Classical Kathak dance style. Horizons features traditional as well as contemporary themes in Classical Kathak. The performers include SISK’s founder, principal dancer and choreographer Shambhavi Dandekar along with her highly trained and accomplished disciples from India and USA.

 

SFIAF 2019 Calendar Listing

Who: Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, Guru Shradha, Shambhavi’s International School of Kathak and Samudra Dance Creations / Joytsna Vaidee

What: A Day of Indian Classical Dance

Where: Cowell Theater, Herbst Pavillion, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture

When: Saturday May 25, 2:00pm (Guru Shradha followed by Abhinaya)

           Saturday May 25, 4:00pm Panel Discussion moderated by Priya Das

           Saturday May 25, 5:30pm (Samudra followed by Shambhavi)

Tickets: $15 – $28general admission (Two show passes are $40)

Box Office & Information: www.sfiaf.org 415-399-9554

~XXX~

Hindustani High in San Francisco

Hindustani High in San Francisco

San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) this year has a lineup coming up soon that pays homage to the collaborative performing spirit, with artists from India, China, and non-Indians playing Hindustani music sharing the stage. (Browse through this issue to read more about the dance events at the festival.)

Festival director Andrew Wood underscored why international collaboration was a conscious choice, saying, “Some people in other parts of the country may want to cloak themselves in a veil of intolerance, but we are different. San Francisco will lead by example and continue to embrace the people of the world. We invite all those who want to share in these sentiments and who still believe in America’s multicultural promise to join us for an occasion that is powerful, provocative, and beautiful.”

Melody of China, comprising musicians of Chinese-origin, views a collaboration with Indian-origin Swapan Chaudhuri as an opportunity to strengthen its contemporary arts focus while branching out to include other forms of traditional music. “Indian music has increasable rhythm, beautiful melody, and is very spiritual,” said Artistic Director Yangqin Zhao, who plays the hammered dulcimer.

Chaudhuri has always been struck by the similarities between other Asian melodies to Indian ones. “I first noticed it in 2000, when I was accompanying Pandit Ravi Shankar, and then again last year, when I was playing in Japan. During rehearsals, they kept coming back to a scale that I realized was very similar to the Indian raag Bhupali.” He played it for them and there were astonished conversations after that. He experimented with the newly crafted Indo-Japanese sound with the ensemble at the School of Music where he teaches at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia.

The collaboration with Melody of China at SFIAF seemed like a perfect opportunity to extend musically into China and shape new tonal harmonies. While Chaudhuri will be playing an original composition, he cannot quite describe it, since it will come together as an improvised piece onstage. “The music will take care of you once you surrender to it,” he describes, “much like riyaaz (practice). I always tell my students, don’t “use” it, give it love, and you will get a lot back. There is no start and end. It’s never-ending. Once you surrender, you sense a special power.”

The multicultural, harmonizing vibe of the festival this year is not new to Chaudhuri; he remembers fondly the time he worked with Stevie Wonder on the album A Time to Love. The album has some brilliant percussion from all over the world, with the table rhythms being clearly discernible.

The presentation aims at bridging the gap between contemporary arts and traditional music as well. Artists also include Melody of China’s own Gangqin Zhao on Guzheng (zither, vocal), Wanpeng Guo on Sheng (mouth organ), Shenshen Zhang on Pipa (lute) and Xian Lu on Dizi (bamboo flutes). The concert will also feature the world premiere of a new piece, “Opera 4 x 4” in the style of Beijing Opera by Gang Situ with Melody of China and guest cellist Kevin Yu.

SFIAF has another event featuring Indian music with Matthew Montfort (known for his scalloped fretboard guitar) and Habib Khan (on the sitar). They too, are planning to surrender to music onstage. Montfort explains, “I really don’t know exactly what we will be playing yet as that will be determined by the muse. Pandit Habib Khan and I have quite a bit of repertoire that we have performed over the years, but we tend to make up new material onstage. I love working that way because it keeps things fresh!”

The scalloped fretboard guitar was constructed by Montfort and is influenced by both the veena and the sitar. He uses string bending techniques that are similar to those used on the sitar. But the guitar has the ability to play up chords of up to six notes. A guitar-sitar jugalbandi is exciting because it expands the territory of each instrument. For example, the sitarist has the opportunity to explore playing chords if so inspired, and for the guitarist, the challenge will be in matching them. The two artists have recorded five albums together. Ferhan Qureshi will accompany them on the tabla at the festival.

Montfort sees this performance as poignant in the context of Hindustani music tradition and the political climate today. He believes that some of the greatest successes in world fusion music right now are outgrowths of Hindustani music. He thinks the tradition is future-proofed internationally; but also in part by the fact that it accepts performers who were not born into it, such as himself.

However, he says, “Society’s commitment to support the arts has continued to erode, and so the future of virtuoso level music is in jeopardy. This is exacerbated by the current political environment, which is more toxic than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. World fusion music can be part of the solution to humanity’s problems. There is a lot of work to do to get things on a better path.”

8 p.m. Thursday, June 1
Ancient Future Guitar-Sitar jugalbandi
7 p.m. Sunday, June 4
Melody of China www. sfiaf.org
Priya Das is an enthusiastic follower of world music and avidly tracks intersecting points between folk, classical, jazz and other genres.