There was bound to be ceremony and speeches for the grand opening in the main auditorium at the Korzo, and quite right too as there was much to celebrate. In the presence of the Ambassador of India, His Excellency Mr Venu Rajamony, and with the Egyptian Ambassador nearby for good measure, the Festival got underway after the ceremonial lighting of an onstage brass lantern with what must be de rigueur at any Indian musical event, some sitar and tabla.
It always amazes me the range and variety of beautiful sounds that can be produced from the two instruments that epitomise Indian music. Abhirup Roy is a virtuoso tabla player who manages to coax excitement as well as great subtlety from his two small drums. Deepsankar Bhatterarjee’s sitar is an instrument also capable of a wide range of styles and emotions. Their short set was thrilling and exhilarating and perfectly set the mood for the Festival
The evening was a sort of taster for the whole festival so next up was an excerpt from Mātā conceived and performed by Poernima Gobardhan who presented a more contemporary aspect of Indian dance.
Ms Gobardhan demonstrated the importance of hand gestures in this form of dance and this was taken further in Nivaana by the delightfully named Monalisa Ghosh. This was performed by her along with the Ensemble Kalajyoti, consisting of Raju Mishra and Afrina Nasrin. This was a very high-spirited, slightly acrobatic piece with brightly coloured costumes and lots of eye make-up. Very enjoyable and probably what a lot of the audience was expecting.
The joy of the evening was rather muted by the indisposition of Vijna who had been due to perform Samavāya with her partner Renjith as the second part of the programme. She had been taken ill and rushed to hospital the previous evening but the show must go on and Renjith bravely took to the stage with a one-man version of the piece which stresses the importance, as much Indian culture does, of harmony and interdependence of all life on Earth. Renjith was an imposing and elegant dancer and his solo performance was enhanced by some wonderful, mainly vocal, music and some very dramatic lighting.
An excellent start to what promises to be a wonderful celebration of all aspects of Indian Dance. Michael Hasted 20th October 2018
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