Don’t lose your raga
Stay up for all-night music or get wise to classical dance. Words: Mark Fisher
here‘s nothing western artists like more than a journey to India. When they come back. they're always full of exotic terms. raving about the strange. spiritual techniques they‘ve learned. And we nod sagely as they talk about Kathak or Manipuri or Bharatnatyam or Odissi or Kuchipudi or Mohiniattam.
But when do we get the chance to distinguish any of these classical dance styles from the other? Answer: never. Not until now. at any rate. To fill the knowledge gap. the Edinburgh International Festival has programmed a long weekend of performances which focus in turn on each of these key forms of traditional Indian dance (24—26 Aug).
Dance in India has its roots in the time of ancient myths and legends. The earliest known treatise on dance dates from the 2nd century BC. though the forms we know today are more clearly traced to the Sanskrit dramas that evolved from the 12th century onwards. The styles being explored in Edinburgh. evolved in different regions of the subcontinent. reflect the colour of the local culture.
Odissi comes from the east coast and is sensuous and lyrical; Manipuri comes from the mountains of the north cast. a secluded region that has held on to its ancient rituals; Bharatnatyam has its roots 2000 years ago and requires one dancer to take on many roles: Mohiniattam comes from the south west and literally means ‘dance of the enchantress‘; Kuchipudi is a religious form from the south
20 THE LIST 18 Jul—1 Aug 2002
Mohiniattam comes from the south west and literally means ‘dance of the enchantress’
renowned for its dcxtrous footwork: and Kathak is a story-telling form from the north. The performances are complemented by an Indian Study Day at the Royal Museum (24 Aug. 10am—4pm).
Iilsewhere in the International l-‘cstival. look out for Pritham (‘hakravarthy a fascinating political story—teller and a true festival find (see feature). and the Night Raga. which begins at 10.30pm on 9 Aug and continues until dawn. It‘s part of a series of Royal Batik £5 Nights (most of them of a normal length) in the I'shcr Hall for which the bargain-rate tickets have just gone on sale (5—30 Aug).
Back on the Fringe. if the Indian theme has grabbed you. you might care to check out Ramayana Story: a children’s show from the Vasantamala Indian Dance Institute (IS—25 Aug. the (iarage (‘hapiteatnz Blink/1am am/ .S'arpagati. a contemporary dance performance from Kerala ((3—24 Aug. St Stephens): Roar of I/It' Drums. a variation of the martial arts tradition of Manipur. performed by a company that is also appearing at the Tattoo (2—85 Aug. George Square): .S'anskrilik .llr'la. a folk performance from the Himalayas (St Mark’s Unitarian Church. 22-24 Aug. 226 0000); Yi'amimrk l’i/ms prevents .l'lriggva. billed as the sound of modern India. fusing classical raga with biting guitar (the Bongo (‘lub. 5—2-1 Aug): and l’oa/‘a. a play about Indian astrology and Hindu rituals ((iildcd Balloon. 2- 26 Aug).
And if all that's not enough for you. don't forget the lidinburgh Mela (31 Aug & 1 Sep. Pilrig Park). Scotland's biggest annual multicultural arts festival that celebrates the wide diversity of cultures in Scotland.
Clockwise from left: Do the Kuchipudi orthe Bharatnatyam; a scene from Bhukham and Sarpagati and the Night Raga