Delhi arts fest kicks off with ode to Rabindranath Tagore

New Delhi: The 15-day Delhi International Arts Festival opened at the 16th century Purana Quila here Monday with a tribute to Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore by troupes from Santiniketan and South Africa.

The fifth edition of the festival - one of the biggest culture galas in the country - will host 2,000 performers from the country and abroad at more than 25 venues Nov 1-15.

The events will span every genre of performing and visual arts ranging from the classical to the contemporary.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will inaugurate the festival, while West Bengal Governor M.K. Narayanan will be the chief guest.

A 15-member troupe from Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan will present a song-dance choreography to commemorate Tagore on his 150th birth anniversary and remember an illustrious alumnus - Indira Gandhi - who spent a few years at the university in the 1930s for her post-matriculation degree.

The troupe from the university`s Sangeet Bhavan, led by professor Sandip Basu Sarbadhikari, will render a selection of the poet`s patriotic, seasonal, devotional and folk songs to a fusion choreography of Indian dance and ballet.

"Tagore`s compositions are known for their variety. His music was influenced by folk traditions like baul and kirtan and western mainstream formats. They spoke of issues like nationalism, nature and spirituality. We will try to present the flavours of Tagore`s manifold ideas," Sarbadhikari told reporters here.

"We will also remember former prime minister Indira Gandhi who was an `acharya (chancellor)` at the university," the professor of history said.

A South African fusion dance ensemble, Veruskha Pather & Troupe, will remember the bard from Bengal with a dance and poetry presentation titled "Ocean of Love".

"We have used the Indian Ocean which connects Africa and India as the theme for our journey of love. The choreography was inspired by one of Tagore`s quotation about crossing the ocean," South Africa-based Bharatnatyam dancer Veruskha Pather said.

On Tuesday, US jazz ensemble Paul Beaudry & Pathways will perform at the Kamani Theatre while Indo-Hungarian classical guitarist Robin Sinha will play with Hungarian folk singer Agnes Herczku and violinist Johar Ali Khan at the Bahai House of Worship.

The highlight of the dance repertoire is a Indo-French modern dance festival, DanSe-Dialogue, at the Alliance Francaise Nov 4-8.

A international contemporary showcase, "Travelling Minds- A Journey of Dance & Thought", directed by Ashley Lobo, will bring together choreographers from Spain, US, Germany and India.

Addressing a press conference in the capital Sunday, founder of the Delhi International Arts Festival, Prathibha Prahlad, a Bharatnatyam exponent, said that "painting an economic story for India was not enough".

"India has to tell a story to a generation 20 years from now. What makes a lasting impact on our lives and those of our children is the indoctrination into culture. I want the future generations to be comfortable in their own shoes and respect the cultures of the world," Prahlad said.


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