Twist to Tradition 

Jagriti Theatre’s annual classical music & dance festival – which concluded recently celebrated the tradition of India’s music and dance while infusing the artforms with contemporary interjections
Priyadarshini Ghosh
Priyadarshini Ghosh

BENGALURU: Jagriti Theatre, one of the city’s cultural venues, brought back its annual classical dance and music festival last weekend. The latest edition of SwarTaal, featured three performances by artistes in the classical music and dance space.

“SwarTaal was borne out of this particular idea of what a cultural space can do to support the art of the city. Jagriti has to encourage not just what the city, but also the local communities already have to offer. In the same vein, this festival supports a particular and encourages a particular form of art – classical dance and music – and lets particular audiences seek and enjoy those performances,” says Rebecca Spurgeon, curator of Swartaal.

Founder Arundhati Raja further adds, “Jagriti was built with the vision of a welcoming space for the performing arts. SwarTaal enhances this vision by the spontaneous and encouraging response of highly acclaimed artistes.”

Since its first edition in 2017, SwarTaal has hosted performances by Pt Venkatesh Kumar, Bombay Jayshree, national awardee Bindhumalini Narayanswamy, Gundecha Brothers, Mallika Sarabai, Revanta Sarabai, Kalamandalam, among others. This year, the festival featured performances from Prithvi Nayak, Sangeetha Sivakumar and Priyadarshini Ghosh. “One thing that unifies all three of them, is the deep interest in pushing the form.

While the beauty of Indian classical music and dance is, in what already exists, we’re seeing contemporary interjections into classical music and dance. These artistes are asking, ‘Why?’ and ‘I will add, I will add my own identity, I will add my own experience to it’,” adds Spurgeon. 

Unlike contemporary dance and music, classical forms are often less popular, especially with the younger generations. Oftentimes, it is to do with accessibility. With SwarTaal, Spurgeon stresses that the performances were made accessible to people who are witnessing the artform for the first time. 

“When we look at an artform, our approach has always been to examine whether it is accessible to everyone. Does the audience need to know a lot about the form in order to even enjoy it or understand what’s going on stage? That’s true with most artistes, but particularly with the three artistes we had in this year’s lineup. It was for people watching this particular classical form for the first, but also for someone who has deep appreciation for the artform,” she concludes. 

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