The International Dance Council, which remains the inspiration of its world president, professor Alkis Raftis, sought to link the world through dance.
A few days back, India’s commercial capital, Mumbai, was the centre for the 52nd World Congress of Dance organised by the Dadar-Mumbai section of the International Dance Council in collaboration with Secretariat Athens and Council Headquarters, Paris affiliated with Unesco. It was a beautiful and historic gathering of dancers from all over the world ably curated by Kalashri Lata Surendra — section president (Mumbai, India). The 52nd World Congress was totally a magical orb of oneness, as dancers of various dance styles and forms all came together on one single stage, not just showcasing their extraordinary talent, but also conducting workshops for the same.
The beautiful Royal Opera House, Tata Theatre — NCPA, ISKCON Auditorium, Pt Vishnu Digambar Paluskar Sabhagruha, and the Taj Ballroom, Mumbai were the arenas for all the performances, and the venue for daytime activities such as lectures and workshops was the Taj Airport Hotel, curated by the section president. The theme of — “Dance is and for a Cause” was endorsed through papers presented by stalwarts and seasoned artists from various parts of the globe.
The event was even more special because of the presence of Constantin Kontogiannis, the vice-president, Paris section CID, who handed over the International Certification for participation to students and dancers with Amruta Fadnavis, wife of Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, at the closing ceremony.
This was the second time that the Mumbai section of the International Dance Council (CID) was organising its world famous Congress in India. A world congress endorses the harmony, peace and goodwill linking worlds through the didactic potency of dance and is open to all forms of dance: classical, ballet, modern, folk, ballroom, oriental, tango, therapeutical, recreational, revival, etc. The International Dance Council, which remains the inspiration of its world president, professor Alkis Raftis, sought to link the world through dance.
The inaugural evening at the Royal Opera House came to life with performances in various styles and with the ornate presence of Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj and his foremost disciple, Vidhushi Saswati Sen. Charismatic Bollywood actress, Amrita Rao, dance reality show judge and choreographer, Geeta Kapur, TV celebrity and actress, Jayati Bhatia, actor and comedian Ssumier Pasricha embellished the evening with their presence and participation. The evening came to life with the dance defined through various styles commencing with Agni by Ashley Lobo — Navdhara India Dance Theatre (NIDT), followed by renowned dancers whose names are synonymous with their styles such as Padmashri Darshana Jhaveri performing the Manipuri dance, Vidushi Saswati Sen doing the Kathak, veteran Deepak Mazumdar with Bharatnatyam, imaginative choreographer Deep Mehta with contemporary, accomplished exponent and curator Kalashri Lata Surendra performing Bharatnatyam, Indian actor and comedian Ssumier Pasricha reaching out post-15 years with a Kuchipudi performance.
The five day lectures /workshops had distinguished names from abroad and from India such as the world-renowned dancer, filmmaker and musician, Raghunath Manet, Padmashri Ileana Citaristi, Sandhya Purecha, Jayaprabha Menon, Sheela Mehta, Rajyalakshmi Seth, Indu Raman, critic Bhanu Kumar, Smita Gik Parikh, Ashley Lobo, Sriram Emani (co-founder of Indian raga). Anurag Chauhan, Asha Sunilkumar, Sailaja Desai, Suman Badami, Sushma Bane, Paullumi Mukherjee and Charushila Golam, Krishna Subramanian, N.N. Sivaprasad, Manisha Jeet, Simran Godhwani, Geetha Vijayshanker, Sushama Gopinath, Jayeeta Dutta, Tejas Merh, Shyamal Pawar, Charanya Gurusathya, Abhishek Rathod, Sreejith T.R., Moli Siddharth, Rashmi Mishra, Mukesh Darbar, Sanjeev J. Wadhwa, Sunil Sunkara and several others and maestros from abroad such as Adrianna Banio and Rafal Matysiak from Poland, Yael Schweitzer from the US, Mave Velo, Caroline Liechti, Albena Horozova from Switzerland, Fiona Gardner from Australia, Diego Marin from Mexico, Peter de Grasse, J.J. Gregg and Monique Meunier also from the US and many others.
What was interesting about the Congress was the converging of dancers to present choreographies to define oneness, which was the ultimate aim of the 52nd World Congress. While we had Sunil Sunkara, Rohit Gopinath, Ankur Bhallal, Abhishek Rathod, T.R. Sreejith, Diego Marin, Peter de Grasse and J.J. Gregg (US) come together and dance on common chords, we also had an answering response through dance by the accomplished women who chaired the lectures during the Congress — Sailaja Desai, Suman Badami and Renu Sharma — who presented a unique quilt of Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi. The synergies of dance and poetry was evocatively brought out by Sunil Sunkara, Paullumi Mukherjee and Manisha Jeet, who brought to life a poem from Kalashri Lata Surendra’s photo-poem journey — Spiraling Dimensions that she seeks to release this year and Manisha Jeet and disciples through the visual prayer of dance ushered in all positivity into the ballroom at the Taj Airport through auspicious chants laced with dancing symmetries.
There were social themes in keeping with the anthem of the Congress that “Dance is and for a Cause” with Jhumpa Chakraborty and disciples from Muscat, who highlighted women’s empowerment through Shakti, while Kalashri Lata Surendra with disciples of Asha Sunil Kumar highlighted the recent trauma of Kerala devastated by floods through her unique choreography — Call of my Paradise.
Life truly comes full circle when dancers crush barriers of caste, creed and religion through the didactic potency of their chosen dance styles and this time the unique dance presentation of Kali — by Fiona Gardner from Australia, Malkauns Meditation through choreographer Peter de Grasse’s collaboration with sitar player J.J. Gregg from the US, the energised hip-hop workshop and performance by Mave Velo, Caroline Liechti and Albena Horozova from Switzerland concluding with a namaste through dance, and the connection through contemporary folds by Diego Marin of Mexico absolutely etched the meaning of togetherness a million times over.
Along with participation certificates given unto all delegates was the prestigious International Certifications given to 25 chosen students who hailed from the underprivileged sector of the Vasai-Virar Kaman region. They were disciples of the section president Kalashri Lata Surendra and one’s heart went out to each one of them as their eyes lit up upon receiving the certifications from none other than the first lady of Maharashtra Ms Fadnavis.
The climax of the closing ceremony was the folk form of Pirodi from Madhya Pradesh by Shri Mukesh Darbar. What started as a solo soon transformed to an entire community spontaneously reaching out towards centrestage, with Lata Surendra leading Ms Fadnavis — the first lady of Maharashtra — to enter the magical orb of oneness embracing one and all!
At the end of any interaction you don’t so much find yourself as you find someone who knows who you are beyond the limiting barriers of regions. As one watched the selfie modes coming a full circle and feet reluctant to leave the ballroom, one wondered whether to smile because the 52nd World Congress happened or cry because it was over all too soon!
Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore, is a World Book Record holder, a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with three National Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Government of India. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org