COLOURS OF INDIA XL at the India Dance Festival

For the second night of the Festival eighteen dance groups, local academies and Indian ex-pat communities from all over the Netherlands sent performers to the Korzo to take part in Colours of India. Split into two shows it demonstrated the incredible, though not really surprising, diversity of dance in that vast country.

One of the things that one can lament about in the changing world is the encroachment of uniformity. Whether you go to London or Paris, Berlin or Dehli, you will find a merging taking place, a blurring of identities. The ubiquitous trainers and jeans, fast food and popular music and, above all, the all-pervasive internet, each contrive to diminish national characteristics and to make everyone the same.

The nine acts in the second of the two shows ranged from solo dancers to medium size ensemble pieces. The participants were of all ages, all shapes and sizes and, it must be said, all levels of talent and ability. But this was essentially an amateur show and so it would be unfair to judge it by normal professional standards. What is important, crucial even, is that any community, whether it is in its own country or ex-pat, remembers and more importantly, keeps alive its culture and tradition.

Although some of the acts could have done with a bit of judicious pruning or a bit more rehearsal, that is not the point. The point is that they were all keeping their heritage alive and enjoying themselves in the process, as was the largely partisan audience who cheered the group they supported when it was announced. However, what was of an incredibly high and impressive quality throughout were the spectacular and beautiful costumes.

The performances were as varied as the thousands of different communities and styles that exist in India, with often obvious influences from Bollywood. There were middle-aged ladies, teenage and very small girls, all giving their best. What was conspicuous, though, was the lack of male dancers in the proceedings – there were only two.

There were two or three really top quality performances, the best of which does deserve a mention. Aswathy Arun and Remya Vinod of the Natanam Academy of Dance and Arts faultlessly performed a traditional dance which was a joy to watch.

The evening concluded with a strange little piece. It was not so much a dance as a little mime play set to music. Three women were in discussion, using only gestures, about something or other and although one didn’t understand what was going on, it was, nevertheless intriguing.

It is wonderful to see such enthusiasm and commitment to retaining identity in an ever encroaching global village where the only shared or joint activity is staring at a screen and tapping on a keyboard. In this day and age it is important that nations and communities keep alive their traditions so they are never forgotten. Anyone interested in joining the Netherlands Morris Dancing Society?      Michael Hasted  21st October 2018

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