The Chitresh Das Dance Company & Chhandam School will mark its 30th anniversary with an international festival of classical Indian dance and music. “Traditions Engaged: Dance, Drama, Rhythm” features performances by V.P. and Shanta Dhananjayan, Chitresh Das, Swapan Chaudhuri, Rajendra Gangani, Sadanam Harikumaran, Darshana Jhaveri, Ratikant Mohapatra, and Mahua Mukherjee.
In partnership with its sister organization, Chhandam Nritya Bharati in India, the Chitresh Das Dance Company will join together artists, students, funders, presenters, and audiences from around the world to explore the role and relevance of India’s traditional classical dance and music forms today.
“Traditions Engaged” builds on the major success of CDDC’s 2006 international festival and symposium, “Kathak at the Crossroads.” Through performances, lectures, panel discussions, and demonstrations, the event will expand the focus of conversation to embrace the wide panoply of Indian classical music and dance traditions. Featuring some of India’s leading dancers and musicians, as well as emerging artists, the show will offer unprecedented access and insight into their traditional arts and provide a greater understanding of their relevance to modern society.
“One of the principal aims of this festival is to showcase the great diversity and depth of Indian classical dance and music in a way that gives new perspectives on these traditions,” says founder and artistic director, Pandit Chitresh Das.
“In a wider sense, though, the festival also aims to provide a forum for discussing the function of traditional arts within contemporary and cosmopolitan settings. For some ‘tradition’ is a liability,” adds Das. “The word can conjure up images of things stale, static, backward, or perhaps merely foreign and exotic. These characterizations, however, obscure tradition’s enduring if sometimes mysterious beauty and its timeless body of knowledge—be it technical, historical, or spiritual.”
For Das, the passing on of India’s traditional art forms is a way to empower future generations. He founded Chhandam, one of the world’s largest Indian classical dance institutions with six Bay Area and two Los Angeles locations and 450 students. With academies in Kolkata and Mumbai, Das shares his time between India and the U.S. to teach kathak to, among others, the daughters of sex workers who have been taken out of the red light district. His disciples have opened schools in North America in Boston.
“Something I wish to impart to future generations is the power of dance to develop self-awareness and confidence–and to communicate the feelings we have,” says Das.
“In the classical Indian tradition, though, it is also an important form of storytelling and a way of personalizing wisdom from the past.”
Oct. 1-3. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. (415) 333-9000. www.kathak.org/traditionsengaged.
Oct. 8-10. REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater), 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles. (415) 333-9000. www.kathak.org/traditionsengaged.