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DCist Fall Festival Preview

DCist Preview: 7th Annual Fall Festival of Indian Arts

By Sriram Gopal in Arts and Events on October 7, 2010 1:05 PM

This past Saturday, the Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company launched its 7th Annual Fall Festival of Indian Arts. That date, October 2, is the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, and Dakshina celebrated the occasion with a poetry reading from local spoken word artist, Gowri Koneswaran, and a classical Indian recital from sitarist Alif Laila. The festival continues this weekend, with two nights of dance on Friday and Saturday at U Street’s historic Lincoln Theatre. The shows will feature performances by Daniel Phoenix Singh’s troupe, as well as guest appearances from Mallika Sarabhai and Anita Ratnam, both renowned and award winning artists in the world of Indian dance.

“They are all amazing artists, but what I particularly like about them is that they produce relevant art,” said Singh of this year’s guest performers. “Instead of art for art’s sake, they connect and speak to the communities.”

Singh, who is Dakshina’s President and Artistic Director, curates each year’s festival himself. To his, and his team’s credit, a majority of dancers performing at the Kennedy Center‘s maximum INDIA festival in 2011 — a month long celebration of arts from the Subcontinent — have already performed in the District as part of the Fall Festival of Indian Arts. The ability to find multifaceted artists is one major reason why Dakshina’s festival maintains its vitality.

“I personally attend the dance festivals in India each year to look at the performances before I curate each festival,” Singh explained. “Keeping a finger on the pulse is what helps us keep our festival fresh and alive.”

On Friday, Sarabhai and the Darpana Dance Company present Sampradayam (Traditions), which draws its inspiration from a style of Hindu devotional music called bhajans, in which groups of singers create trance like melodies with only very simple accompaniment. Ratnam’s performance on Saturday will present FACES: Blessed Unrest, a presentation of different archetypes from the Indian cultural tapestry. Dakshina will also perform an excerpt of Singh’s fusion dance piece, Vasanth, which will premiere in its entirety at maximum INDIA next year.

Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company is clearly establishing itself as an artistic presence in the District and beyond. The award winning company’s upcoming schedule includes an evening of works by choreographer Anna Sokolow at the University of Maryland in November, and then performances in Argentina shortly thereafter. A tour of the Mid-Atlantic region is planned for Spring 2011.

As the company expands its repertoire and performing opportunities, Singh hopes that this growth is reflected in its annual festival.

“I hope this becomes a signature national festival with the ability to expand the number of days the festival spans, and the number of artists we present,” said Singh. “I hope that someday, this will become a draw not just for D.C. residents but for people from around the world, similar to the international festivals in India and Europe.”

The Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company presents the 7th Annual Fall Festival of Indian Arts on October 8 and 9, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre, located at 1215 U Street NW. Full schedule and ticketing information is available here.