Asian-American/Asian Research Institute

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2005 CUNY Asian American Dance Festival

Festival Schedule

Date: January 21 & 28, 2005
Time: Friday, 6:00PM to 8:00PM

Place: Martin Segal Theatre, CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, Corner of 34th Street, Manhattan


January 21, 2005
Odissi Dance: Classical Dance of East India"
by Sonali Mishra

Odissi traces its origins to the ritual dances performed in the temples of ancient northern India. Today the name Odissi refers to the dance style of the state of Orissa in eastern India. Like other classical arts of India, this ancient dance style had suffered a decline as temples and artists lost the patronage of feudal rulers and princely states, and by the 1930s and 40s, there were very few surviving practitioners of the art.  

The current form of Odissi is the product of a 20th century revival. Dedicated scholars and dance enthusiasts carefully researched manuscripts and studied the sculpture, painting and poetry of the region. They also met and observed the performances of the few existing performers, in order torevive and restructure Odissi as a unique classical dance style adapted to the requirements of formal stage presentation. Over the years Odissi has become one of the most popular classical dance styles.

Like other Indian classical dance forms, Odissi has two major facets: Nritta or non-representational dance, in which ornamental patterns are created using body movements in space and time; and Nritya, or stylized mime in which symbolic hand gestures and facial expressions are used to interpret a story or theme.The technique of Odissi includes repeated use of the tribhangi, or thrice-deflected posture, in which the body is bent in three places, approximating an “s” shape. This posture and the characteristic shifting of the torso from side to side, make Odissi a difficult style to execute. When mastered, it is the epitome of fluid grace and has a distinctively lyrical quality that is very appealing.  

January 28, 2005
"Nomad: The River"
by Yin Mei

Nomad: The River, is inspired by Yin Mei's own search for spiritual meaning - a search which began in a childhood clouded by China's Cultural Revolution, but blessed by dreams of a world beyond.

Nomad: The River revolves around the symbol of the river - the holy river, the river of life, the river as the source and endpoint of human longing and desire, the river as both sacred and profane reality. The work draws context from two actual rivers - the Yellow River in China and the Ganges in India. The work draws context from two actual rivers - the Yellow River in China and the Ganges in India. Yin Mei grew up along the banks of China's Yellow River. Known both as the cradle of Chinese civilization and as "China's Sorrow" due to the tremendous floods arising from it, the Yellow River - named for the mud that clouds its waters - is considered the soul of China. It is, for the Chinese, a locus of ghosts and ghost stories, of mythical happenings, of destruction, of disasters and of transformation. Likewise, for the Indian people, the Ganges is a holy and inviolate body of water - a river from which they drink, on which they cremate their dead in floating pyres, and in which they ritually bathe - despite its being one of the most polluted bodies of water on earth.

The duality represented by these fabled rivers drives the choreography and visual environment of Nomad: The River. The work begins when a young woman walks onto the stage, turns on an old-fashioned radio and stares deeply into its lighted dial. As the music pours forth, it opens up a magical realm of memories, fantasies and transformation. Projections transform the theater space into a world beyond and the stage becomes a river along which a ghostly boat carries the dancers on their journey. With the young woman and her radio serving throughout as a gateway between the physical and the spiritual, the work continually shifts between the longing to escape the world and the rawness and danger of the here-and-now in which we must, inevitably, find our way.




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