By Jessi Smith
One thing about the Ringling International Arts Festival that has always struck me, even in my role as a casual and distant observer in years past, is its commitment to showcasing an ever-changing, fresh and diverse selection of artists and traditions from around the world, whose combined presence brings a symphony of cultural revelation to Sarasota each year.
Last week I told you about Ensemble Basiani, a polyphonic choir from the country of Georgia whose eccentric melodies are a modern re-discovery of a folk tradition that dates back to the medieval ages in Eastern Europe.
This week we look to Shantala Shivalingappa, who will also grace the stage at RIAF 2012 to showcase Kuchipudi, a style of dance from South India whose origins predate the music of Ensemble Basiani by 1000 years or more.
Various sources claim that Kuchipudi originated in the years between the third and second centuries BCE, in a small village from which the dance derives its name in the district of Andhra Pradesh. Like much of the Indian classical dance tradition, the style and themes of Kuchipudi are derived from Hindu scripture, mythology and the tradition of dramatic storytelling.
Defined by the elegance, beauty and grace of its practitioners, Kuchipudi dance blends the abstract motion of pure dance with the didactic narrative elements of expressive dance; the performer tells a story through complex and precise rhythmic movements, as well as expressive facial communication and body language.
Shivalingappa, who was born in Madras, India and raised in Paris, France, appears to have come into the world with a natural predilection for bridging the cultural divide between east and west. Her movements draw from the deep well of Kuchipudi’s eastern tradition and vocabulary while she intersperses modern elements of dance through her choices in choreography and musical accompaniment, resulting in a spellbinding synthesis.
Shivalingappa’s range of ability is evident in the gracefully deliberate flow of her movements in this performance, as well as in the vibrant gleeful motion she expresses in this energetic excerpt from a 2009 performance. In both performances, intricate footwork, sensual fluidity and razor-sharp precision exemplify Shivalingappa’s fiercely beautiful stage presence and pay homage to the ancient tradition of Kuchipudi, which is alive and thriving in the energy the dancer exudes.
The internationally-renowned dancer will perform at RIAF 2012 at 8pm on Thursday, Oct. 11; Friday, Oct. 12 at 5pm and Saturday, Oct. 12 at 5pm. With tickets starting at just $25, this performance is a must-see for fans of dance and Indian culture.
Visit the online box office or call 941-300-7399 or 800-660-4278 to reserve your tickets today!