New York-Based Dance Company Enchants India

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by Karin Silitonga
The Battery Dance Company brings their mesmerizing performance to New Delhi. (Image: ICCR Twitter Account @ICCR_Delhi)

The world-renowned Battery Dance Company recently toured India, where it showcased the performance “Shakti:  A Return to the Source”.  The performance was accompanied by a rendition of “Raag Durga” by brothers Rajan and Sajan Mishra. It included five principal dancers of Battery Dance in collaboration with Indian classical dancer Unnath Hassan Rathnaraju. The performance, initially called “The Durga Project”, was first unveiled in New York to celebrate the Company’s 40th anniversary in 2016.

The tour, which visited five Indian cities – Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and New Delhi – kicked off on January 11. During the tour, Battery Dance conducted a series of performances and workshops, concluding on January 31 in New Delhi. The last performance was attended by US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, the Mishra brothers, and Director General of ICCR Riva Ganguly Das, among many others.  

This is not the first time that Battery Dance Company has performed in India, as their Founder and Artistic Director Jonathan Hollander has strong ties to the country. Hollander, who co-founded the Indo-American Art Council, Inc., first visited India when he was 16 through an exchange program, and returned in 1992 as a Fulbright lecturer, during which time he got connected to prominent Indian dancers such as C.V. Chandrasekhar and Mallika Sarabhai. These deep-rooted ties to India propelled Hollander to introduce elements of Indian culture to American audiences. The Company’s previous visits to India include a 17-city tour showcasing “Songs of Tagore” in 1997 and a six-city tour for “Layapriya” in 2001.

The stage performance was presented by the US Department of State in collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), demonstrating the universal language that art speaks to audiences all over the world. The incorporation of Indian cultural elements into a western performance highlights how Indian dance has garnered popularity over the years, which is evident in the New York Times’ inclusion of three Indian dance performances in their list of The Best Dance of 2017. The Consulate General of India, New York has also exhibited efforts to support the development of arts in New York, as they will be a co-sponsor for the Company’s 37th Annual Dance Festival, New York City’s longest-running free public dance festival, in August this year.

Karunia "Karin" Silitonga is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of Baylor University.

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