Dance as Diplomacy

Hanover Messe



An unusual, but outstanding, international event took place in Germany a month ago on April 12, 2015 that was somehow missed by the press here in the USA. It was all about – not overtly but implicitly – Dance of India that was presented in all its manifold ancient, artistic and colorful forms with an unusual setting: The Hanover Messe! That’s right – it was a mix of high art and hifalutin’ industry!! Click on the red banner above to see for yourself the YouTube sensation of the year!!!

Led by India’s forceful no-nonsense Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his country’s  large delegation was presented on a huge stage lit up in Broadway – not Bollywood! – style with the unusual present – not past! – tense banner reading: MAKE IN INDIA. And, make no mistake, that was at the world’s paramount industrial fair.

The mega performance by the visiting troupe unfolded a remarkably well-choreographed panorama of India’s ancient and modern dance forms before a rapt audience of the German government’s  movers and shakers including the indomitable Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting amidst her cabinet members and her country’s titans of industry.

It was surprisingly – for me at least – a joy to watch, because of the variety, artistic integrity and professionalism of the infinite number of classical and regional dances – all of it  captured in a flowing and fascinating YouTube clip  (see Hanover Messe at top in case you haven’t already) for all the world to see.

The video is in three separate segments, but I would urge you to leave it after you’ve savored the very first segment, which is all about dance, and not the other two that are all about politics and/or the close and age-old bond between Germany and India in many spheres of interaction. That’s of course if you have the time and patience to sit throughout all the nine yards.  Don’t get me wrong! The entire YouTube presentation is an extremely well-choreographed Indian cultural presentation at the world’s largest industrial fair with top government leaders and CEOs from Germany and India.

It would be fun for you to figure out what state in India each dance performance represents. The comment section below this blog is available for any educated guesses to be sent to me, so do go ahead and make use of it in case you have the urge to participate, or try your luck.

Just as a quick overview and in no particular order here are the dance presentations:

Kathak is the classical dance of North India.
Kathakali is performed in almost every part of the Deccan in the South, but mostly in the state of Kerala.
Manipuri is a folk-art in that state and is vitally alive, both as an amusement and as a religious ceremony.
Odissi is a highly inspired, passionate, ecstatic and sensuous form of dance in the state of Orissa. Like most of the South Indian classical dances of India, Odissi too had its origin in the tradition of a Devadasi  – or a girl “dedicated” to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life.
Bharatanatyam of the South that possesses a more ancient origin than all the others above, occupies not surprisingly the highest recognition and is probably the best known of Indian dance forms performed outside India in, for example, New York City and cities in California. All the classical dance forms use basically the same ‘mudras’ or signs of the hand as a common language of expression and were originally performed in the temples to entertain various Gods and Goddesses. uday shankar [Shown above is the famous dancer Uday Shankar (1900-1977) in a familiar pose.

Uday Shankar2
I had the pleasure of meeting him (above is another photo of  him that I rather like) at the New Delhi home of his youngest brother,
Ravi Shankar (1920-2012), the world-renowned sitarist, who was fond of holding soirees in the garden of his bungalow in the mid-1950’s.]

Other than Manipuri, there are other folk dances particular to the states of Bengal, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh that I have not touched upon. Never mind, I’m sure if you are at all impressed with the variety of pulsating dance forms available in South Asia for your entertainment, you will be tempted to go on the Internet and forage for yourself to witness many examples of nirvana in the here and now.

PS: For the uninitiated, the Hindi “Bhai-Bhai” in the heading of this blog means “Brother-Brother” – or colloquially on the streets of these United States as “Bro-Bro!”

 Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

5 thoughts on “Dance as Diplomacy

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