Breathtakingly beautiful girls reeled in and gay (as in the original meaning)
guys cart-wheeled on to the stage, filling the air with festivity. A befitting
beginning indeed to the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the India Council for Cultural
The event was not very different from our own rural melas. When Himachal Som from ICCR talked about it being a global village, he was not far from the truth. And like organizer Lesley Jacob said, we hear about such things, but it is always good to see them.
The Kazaki Kubani from Russia was a veritable encyclopedia of their folk tradition. Crafted by master choreogreapher Anatoli Alifef, the song and dance numbers were lively. The group was at once coy, classic, comic and creative. The men wooed and won, and the girls pirouetted (one was reminded of the Kathak chaakars) and tap-danced their way into their hearts, all of this exhibited with extraordinary skill.
The singers glorified the river Kazaki Kubani in mercurially modulated voices, using various instruments like the flute, tambourine, accordion, and… "What is that guitar -like thing?," asked a little girl from behind. "A guitar," said her brother, confidently. "The Russians don't play the guitar," scoffed the knowledgeable girl. I racked my brains for the elusive word. Wasn't it the instrument that Socrates wanted to learn to play before the hemlock was administered? Yes - the ukelele, indeed!
Foot tapping music, claps, hoots and whistles from the dancers (and the crowd, too) made for a vibrant performance by the Russians. And then came the lion dancers from Singapore, entering slowly at first, one by one in a salutary dance. The movements were fashioned after Kung-Fu, and gradually picked up speed and dexterity with remarkable grace, reaching a crescendo to the accompaniment of music made up mostly of cymbals and gongs. Martial arts are used for self-defense, and when the dancers wielded spears and short, curved and long gleaming swords, one definitely didn't want to be an opponent.
When the lions came on finally with the tamer teasing them with a ball-in-frame, the pure agility and sinuousness of the whole performance was astounding. It was difficult to believe that each lion was actually two dancers. Their crouching, sitting, standing and leaping - all seemed so real, with not even the thin waistline of a lion ever out of place, sinuously positioned in perfect accord.
The Russian singer had his share of fun when he came into the audience to draw a young front row girl into participation and she shied off. The Russian must have thought us all to be a reticent lot. Our dancing cop Tejdeep would have proved otherwise.
The evening was on the whole very good, and we all left with tapping feet. I tap-danced my way even to the refrigerator when I needed a glass of water in the middle of the night.