I was immensely pleased to find that when I walked into the theater, they were playing Tamil music. And not just any Tamil music, Tamil music from two 90s movies, probably on an album I’ve loved for years. Such a serendipitous alignment with my music taste is extremely rare.
I thought a lot about how connected the Indian community is to its home country. It was more visible to me than usual, perhaps because I haven’t been back there for four years and a visit is long overdue. As usual, there was much more enthusiastic singing for the Indian national anthem than the American one. Sahana Music, the first group to perform, then chose to give a rendition of “Vande Mataram”, which is India’s national song, stoking the sense of community in the room. Similarly, other performances also presented themes of unity and friendship.
I was on the main floor this time, which afforded me less of a view of the geometry of the choreography than I get from the balcony. Because of this, I think I missed out on part of the bhangra team’s usual visual spectacle, unfortunately. They do an amazing job usually and the performance didn’t come off as well when the choreography was obscured. Sahana Dance presented three different types of Indian classical dance. Choreographing all three to work in harmony is a feat, but they did it. I was confused and then very pleasantly intrigued by the fact that they didn’t dance to traditional Indian music. Instead, it was fusion music, and I loved it. I do wish it had been softer, though, because hearing the footwork in Indian classical dance is essential. (On that note, they could use some work on their sound mixing, as well as their video editing, which I realize is not the emphasis of the performance but would like to mention anyway). I was especially impressed by Izzat’s performance. Normally, the all-male Indian fusion dance team performs with a very angular movement style, but this performance showcased a versatility I didn’t know they had. They danced to multiple genres of music, from hip-hop to Bollywood to “Bare Necessities” (their performance was themed on The Jungle Book). Of all their dances I’ve seen, this was in my opinion the best one. And incidentally, their performance gave the story a peaceful ending too.
Every performance was vibrant, both in color and in character, as it should be because that’s what India is too. I always leave such shows longing for India’s exuberance; it is unashamedly itself, and ready to declare its presence to the world. Note for example the difference in audience. In most Western performances I attend, the audience murmurs quietly until the lights dim, and remains silent from then on. Not so here: the audience has no problem calling out people’s names and cheering them on. Two of the performances used strobe lights; you couldn’t fall asleep to the music if you tried; and all had bright costumes, no pastels in sight. And everyone was just having so much fun.
One last note: There was also a small art exhibition in the hallway, showcasing work by Indian artists. I really liked looking at the work: the thought process is so evident and meticulous, and stylistically the pieces were all beautifully executed.