How important is dance as an art form to Indian society?

“It’s very difficult to talk about Indian dance in general,” says co-initiator of the festival’s choreographer Kálpana Raghuraman in NOS For tomorrow’s purposes† “There are so many different shapes, there are so many different kinds of styles.”


In the classic style, the ends of the body are very important. “The head, feet and hands are used as expressions. It is something very specific from Indian dance. That’s what we know Bollywood for, “Raghuraman explains.” The hand movements, which can mean something, but not always, are very graceful and complex. The feet dance to extremely complex rhythms and turn the body into a percussion instrument. “


Often the dance also tells a story. What kind of story it is depends on the form. “The shape is actually like the alphabet. It can write all sorts of poems and words, you can do all sorts of things with it. The origins of the classical form go back to the temples, so the stories are often about gods. The dances could also be seen with kings, so sometimes it was also about kings. That’s where the biggest stories see, but that’s not all it’s about. It also concerns, for example, the situation in Russia. “

“A movement can mean several things, depending on the context. You can use a knife to cut a cake, but also to attack someone. So it’s really contextual. What many people think about Indian dance is that everything performed by the hand movements matters. So people get nervous because they think they are missing out on everything. This is not always the case, you can also just enjoy the shape. The face, which is also part of the expression, also provides a lot of information. ”


Raghuraman was introduced to dancing through his mother. “My mother is an Indian dancer and was one of the first to set up a dance school in the Netherlands. So I always say: I started very young, because when my mother was pregnant with me, I danced a lot. I was really born into it and have learned so much. ”

Raghuraman has also dived deep into it. “I studied anthropology and researched Indian dance in India. I now also have my own company here. ”

Training for years

To be able to perform the dance well, one has to practice a lot. “You have to have technique, ballet. So many years of training in engineering “, explains the choreographer. “Dance and literature are also connected, so you have to know a lot about literature and especially more about music. You learn about the music and about the rhythms. Indian dancers are mathematicians because much is done rhythmically. You have to know all those things to be a really good dancer. “Because you had to learn so much, children lived with the dance teacher,” says Raghuraman. “That’s not the case today.” Society has changed. “


»You can partly compare it to ballet. It’s perfectly normal when someone in Holland says: oh yes, I’m going to the ballet. Then you take the family to your daughters’ ballet performance. The same is true of Indian dance. The difference is that many people live in India. Then there are also a lot of people who perform Indian dance in all possible forms. When we talk about classical, it is primarily Bharatanatyam, which is the best known form. Then it is still not all, for society is very modernized. They are also looking for all sorts of other forms, such as jazz or urban. A lot is happening. The general knowledge is much higher, ”says Raghuraman. “If you were to see a ballet performance now, people would quickly know about this: hey, this person knows something. Because we have and now know more in our education. It’s the same with Bharatanatyam. So we can more easily know if anyone is good or not. ”


Raghuraman himself still dances at the festival. “I mainly do contemporary work. I use Indian dance and philosophy as inspiration. I mix the urban and contemporary, but for this festival I go back to the roots. So I want to present a more classic work, but choreographed in a contemporary way. ”

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