Fri, Apr 11, 2008 - Page 14 News List

Dance, Dream Community, dance


India Kaiamandaiam Kathakali Dance Group will stage ancient dances at this year’s Indian Cultural Festival.


With vividly painted faces, elaborate costumes and headdresses weighing as much as a small child, a troupe of Kathakali dancers from India are but one of the latest exotic acts to put on a show at the Dream Community (夢想社區).

The group is headlining this year’s Indian Cultural Festival, which starts tomorrow at the artist community in Shijr City (汐止) that is known for staging colorful parades and concerts.

On the schedule for the weeklong program: eight dance and dance drama performances by Indian and local troupes; seven workshops on classical Indian dance, yoga, South Asian cuisine, and the ancient healing art of Ayurvedic medicine; an exhibit of dancer’s costumes; and an outdoor Indian bazaar.

The India Kaiamandaiam Kathakali Dance Group stages a form of Indian dance drama that originated during the late 16th century in what is now the southern Indian state of Kerala.

A highly developed art that combines literature, music, dance, theater and pantomime, Kathakali is one of the finest genres of Indian performance art. Intricate makeup and costumes, nuanced facial expressions and eye movements, and 24 mudras, or hand gestures, can, when combined in different ways, convey thousands of meanings, said troupe director Shiju Purushothaman.

“Mudras are like letters. Kathakali can talk to each other without talking,” said Purushothaman, who received six years of rigorous training at the

prestigious Kerala Kalamandalam performance art school.

Traditionally, Kathakali adapts stories from epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. But to reach out to non-Indians, contemporary Kathakali artists adopt materials from other cultures. On April 26 at Taipei City Family Theater (台北市親子劇場), Purushothaman’s troupe will stage a Kathakali version of the Chinese classic Butterfly Lovers (梁山伯與祝英台) that took the veteran artist two years to complete.

Performance notes

What: 2008 Indian Cultural Festival

When and Where: Tomorrow through April 18 at the Dream Community (夢想社區), 95 Minzu 2nd St, Shijr City, Taipei County (台北縣汐止市民族二街95號) near the intersection of Huqian Street (湖前街) and Kangning Road (康寧路); April 26 at Taipei City Family Theater (台北市親子劇場), 2F, 1 Shifu Rd, Taipei City (台北市市府路1號2F)

Tickets: NT$200 for the dance performances at Dream

Community; NT$250 to NT$450 for the Butterfly Lovers performance, available at ERA ticket outlets or at

On the Net: 2008 Indian Cultural Festival

“In Kathakali, we talk in poetry. I have to first transform the Chinese story into poems and sync it with our music,” Purushothaman explained.

Indian dancers usually spend decades learning art forms like these, which demand immense concentration. Sangita Chaherjee, who will perform solos during the festival, has studied the classical dance of Northern India since childhood.

Popularized by Bollywood, her dance form is characterized by graceful movements, subtle facial expressions — unlike the more dramatic expressions in Kathakali — and fast footwork.

The young artist is happy to add contemporary materials to her 2,000-year-old art form.

“Once you finish the training [and are] deeply rooted in the tradition, you are free to create your own thing,” Chaherjee said. “Younger generations of artists like myself tend to explore new possibilities … . We aim for an international outlook and try to bring India to the globe.”

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