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At the feet of the guru

Sharon Lowen’s repertoire is the star attraction of the dance festival that looks at the changes in classical dance through exhibition, performances, workshops and seminars

‘Study the past if you would define the future’ — Confucius. Taking inspiration from this, a dance festival, ‘Looking Back to Move Forward’, exploring the continuity and change in Indian classical dance forms, is being hosted at the India International Centre.

Organised by an NGO, Manasa — Art Without Frontiers, the festival features seminars, exhibitions, workshops and dance performances. “The idea is to facilitate intersections between visual and performing arts, both traditional and contemporary,” says Sharon Lowen, acclaimed Odissi dancer. Sharon is one of the founding members of this NGO that works to acquaint the general public, especially the younger generation, with the rich cultural heritage of India and also provides new artistes a platform to develop and share their art.

Portraying the historical evolution of dance, a photography exhibition, ‘A Dancer Looks Back: Sharon Lowen’s 45 Years in India,’ showcases the photographs of legendary dancers and performances of the 1970s and 80s. These photographs, taken in Delhi, Kolkata, Imphal, Seraikella, Baripada, hold a historical record of the cultural activity of the time. Before arriving in India as a Fulbright Scholar, Sharon studied photography at the University of Michigan; This collection of 60 photos, which was to be used for teaching, has never been shared before as being a performing artiste took precedence over returning to academia.

Apart from the exhibition, the festival includes three seminars to discuss the concerns and traditions of Indian performing arts — from Gurus to disciples, artists to audience. The first seminar discusses what constitutes authenticity in classical art and the need, along with the challenges, in maintaining suruchi (aesthetics) in performing arts. Following this, the second seminar talks about the youth in contemporary representation of classical performing arts via media. The final seminar explores Indian classical dance as part of the world’s cultural community.

Sharon explains that she has consciously picked the dates for the performances as it culminates on Guru Purnima. The festival will showcase traditional and contemporary performance of Mohiniattam by French artist Brigitte Chataignier, choreographic premiers of 20th century poets in six different languages and an Odissi performance.

The festival ends with a dance workshop on contemporary Mohiniattam at Alliance Francaise auditorium, along with the screening of the film, Dance with the Enchantress.

Sharon believes that the festival is unique as it addresses change and evolution, which is integral to any art form. “Tradition is never static. Where is art going?” Sharon asks, hoping that people will come forward to be a part of this discussion.
The festival will be held atIIC from July 25 to 27 and at Alliance Francaise de Delhi on July 28-29.