Ananda in Africa - Ananda Shankar Jayant

Early June this year, dancer Ananda Shankar Jayant was nominated by the ICCR to perform Kuchipudi at the prestigious National Arts Festival in South Africa. She has recently returned after a 23-day dance tour of South Africa, Mauritius, Zambia and Kenya. In an exclusive column for KutcheriBuzz, Ananda shares her experiences of the South African tour:

"This tour was sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. On this 23 day tour starting from 27 June to 19 July I performed both Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi styles of dance.

I was the only Indian to perform at this year's prestigious National Arts Festival at Grahamstown.

This festival attracts the best in art over eight days. Music (Classical, Jazz & Popular) Dance, theatre, visual arts. Classical and avant-garde art rubbed shoulders with installations, street theatre along with fringe performances turning the Rhodes University Town of Grahamstown into a veritable crucible of culture. People came from far and wide to witness these major events.

anandaThe response to Indian dance was fantastic. The audience gave me standing ovations everywhere, with requests for encores. The press there gave me rapturous write ups - what I found is that when a lucid interpretation precedes an item, it helped the international audience understand our highly codified dance forms.

I gave eight performances in South Africa, of which three were in Grahamstown, with one each in Durban, Port Shepstone, Petermaritzburg, Johannesburg and Cape Town. I also performed in Mauritius, Zambia and Kenya (3 programmes in Nairobi & Mombassa).

I performed Bharatanatyam for the first half for 40 to 50 minutes, and then went on to Kuchipudi for the next 40 to 45 minutes after a 5 to 7 minute musical interlude, during which I changed costumes. The audience especially loved the Thillana of Bharatanatyam and the Tarangam of Kuchipudi.

Diku Theriyada Kattil of Bharatiyar, a Meera Bhajan and Sanchara Daddara (Ashtapadi) also received tremendous response. The performances in South Africa which were ticketed and were all sold out, attracted a mixed audience of South Africans as well as the Indian Diaspora.

There is tremendous interest in Indian dance there. Especially in South Africa, Mauritius and Kenya, there are large schools which coach students in Bharatanatyam and Kathak. The students there are eager for interaction with artistes from India. I conducted lecture demonstrations and workshops, ensuring that improvisation sessions were also held to help the students trigger their creativity.

I was accompanied by my student Manjula Dorairaj (Nattuvangam) Venu Madhav (Vocal), T.P. Balasubramaniam (Mridangam) and Sai Kumar (Violin).

This is my third ICCR tour. The earlier tours were to Cyprus, Egypt and UAE in 1992 and to Burma, Laos, Vietnam, South Korea & Cambodia in 1997.

Besides the performances themselves, I found the visit to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa unforgettable. Standing at the meeting point of two oceans the Indian and the Atlantic was overwhelming. The Safari at Masai Mara was wow! We saw a zillion wilder beast, zebra, lions, elephants, giraffe etc., it was like being in the middle of a National Geographic film. Swimming in the Indian Ocean at Mombassa was fun, as was our visit to Sun City in Johannesburg.

Altogether a great unforgettable tour. Thank you ICCR for a memorable tour."

Contact: website www.anandashankarjayant.com