Delhi set for ten-day global arts fest

The capital is primed for a slot on the global cultural tourism map as it opens its doors to unique performances.

New Delhi: The capital is primed for a slot on the global cultural tourism map as it opens its doors to unique performances, fusion projects and artists from 18 countries in a mega showcase of arts and culture for 10 days beginning Dec 3.

The fourth edition of the Delhi International Arts Festival (DIAF), which will focus on cultural collaborations and global contemporary arts, is bringing cutting-edge expositions like the "Edgelock", an e-creativity project, and a `Butoh` dance-musical rendition for the first time to India.

The festival will have a soft launch minus ministerial frills at the Russian Cultural Centre with an unusual showcase - "The World Tea Party" - which will present tea brewing and presentation rituals from all over the world. It will blend the art of drinking tea with dance, music, theatrics and lores associated with traditional tea ceremonies.

The tea ceremony will be followed by a musical melange, "Eclectic Fringe", an Austria-India jazz collaboration at Azad Bhavan on the premises of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

"We are trying to place India as a global soft power on the world culture map with the Delhi International Arts Festival. Established in 2007 to promote the country`s heritage and traditions, it has grown to foster people-to-people contacts with different cultures and countries. This year, 60 percent of the performances in the festival are international as opposed to 20 percent last year," noted classical dancer Prathibha Prahlad, the festival director, said.

The festival will play host to nearly 2,000 performers in 60 events spread across 40 locations in the capital.

"I want to position the festival as a platform for cultural diplomacy and international tourism - as our efforts in the last three years have helped us open up dialogues with the embassies," Prahlad said, explaining the premise of the festival that sought more international participation this year.

The festival is collaboration between the DIAF, ICCR, Sangeet Natak Akademi and Doordarshan, and supported by leading media organisations, hospitality groups and foreign embassies.

Such was the response that the hosts had to turn away at least 10 countries that wanted to participate, the director said.

Prahlad urged the "tourism ministry to prepare a list of visitors to the capital during the festival" to assess its international impact.

Last year, the festival drew 5 million footfalls, Prahlad said.

"I realised that if we open our cultural windows, we will soon be able to make DIAF one of the most accessible festivals in the world like the Edinburgh Arts Festival, Singapore Arts Festival, Sydney International Arts Festival and the Tokyo International Arts Festival. We believe that aesthetics can never be compartmentalised by forms or controlled by countries. Creativity as a notion is constantly in search of new content and forms," she said.

According to Prahlad, first-time performances at the festival include "Tales of the Body", a Butoh dance-musical rendition from Spain, multi-media theatres, "The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik" and "Deep Sea Explorer" from Australia; "Ether", a contemporary dance troupe from South Korea, a multi-media reading performance from Denmark, dances from Japan and a soiree by the Nomadic World Orchestra that plays itinerant gypsy music.

The Butoh performance by Au Ments from Spain promises to be a treat.

"Butoh is a performance in which a performer displays different parts of the body in different ways," Prahlad said.

Butoh is the collective name for a diverse range of activities, techniques, motivations for dance, performance and movements inspired by the Japanese genre, Ankoku Butoh - created by legends like Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno.

It involves grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or absurd environments - and is traditionally performed with white body make-up in flowing and controlled motion.