Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mayuri Dance Group

Mayuri Dance Group (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

One of the many enjoyable things about reading Alastair Macaulay, the dance critic of the New York Times, is his deep appreciation of Indian dance. And it seems as though that appreciation has become even greater over the past year or two. It's been delightful to share his sense of discovery in the pages of the Times; he writes with a rare warmth and enthusiasm.

Last winter he made a dance-centered visit to India, and wrote about his stay in Nrityagram, a village devoted to the classical dance form Odissi: "Although I have spent over 35 years following dance in the West, a four-week visit to India in February made me feel that only now have I witnessed dance where it is truly central to culture" ("In India, Eternal Rhythms Embody a National Spirit," NYT, March 16, 2012).

Macaulay is not only an exponent of Indian classical dance; his appreciation also extends to Bollywood. In Sunday's NYT he had a piece on the Downtown Dance Festival's annual program of Indian dance, "Erasing Borders" (NYT, August 19, 2012). The festival involves street performances by the participating companies, and appearing in the festival this year was the Mayuri Dance Group, from Petrozavodsk, Russia. The troupe was formed in 1987 at the Petrozavodsk's Railway Workers Cultural Center, and performs their own choreography to classic and contemporary Bollywood songs. Here's a sample: Kailash Kher's "Jhoomo Re":

Of course, Russians performing Bollywood won't come as a huge shock to anyone who has watched a Bollywood movie in the last decade—Russian dancers have become ubiquitous in nightclub scenes. But usually they're wearing sequined hot pants, not a sari or salwar kameez. The all-female Mayuri troupe also convincingly performs male dances, as in Daler Mehndi's bhangra "Ek Dana":

The sheer joy this troupe projects is palpable, even on grainy, nonprofessional video. Macaulay wrote of the group's performance at 1 New York Plaza on Friday that MDG danced "eight numbers with zest, glee and an array of costumes so admirably vivid that audience members exclaimed about them. Combinations of azure with gold, emerald with cream, and black with scarlet flooded the cityscape with color. The dancing, often with lip-syncing and flashing eyes, had all of Bollywood’s engaging vivacity."

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