Music and Dance provided by alumni of Kalalaya School of Performing Arts, 6 April 2019, Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Theatre
The Varnished Culture has great admiration for Indian accomplishment (mixed with a fair bit of ignorance, but profound for all that). But we were not quite prepared* for the Amazing India experience, pretty much a Hindustani eisteddfod featuring all levels of students and tutors of the local Kalalaya School of Performing Arts. From old-style classical dance forms such as Bharatnatyam and cadenced Kathak, to modern, salacious Bollywood numbers, an enthusiastic (at times, overly enthusiastic) audience were treated to 140 minutes of some 20 different numbers of variable quality in a packed programme that pleased, and occasionally palled.
Many of the costumes, particularly the traditional garments, were dazzling in their flowing colours. When the tots, some too young for primary school, came on stage in their pattu langa, they were as cute, small and (choreographically speaking) random as buttons. The numbers ranged from dances of religious significance, modern dance numbers and soft rock riffs made for Eurovision, variety Indian style torch songs and a fusian of twirling. The dancing was a tad patchy – the singing, in the main, was good.
Overall, this was an entertaining evening (despite the continual use of smart-phones to make blurred films of the proceedings for posterity in the darkened auditorium), but we have a few quibbles. The length was inordinate, some 30 to 45 minutes too long. Certain of the acts seemed repetitive; it struck us that the School wanted to ‘give everyone a go’. Much time was expended moving the stage for instruments from and to the wings; some rearrangement of the running order would have limited this. There was a screen at the rear of the stage that could have been used better: the sponsors were credited a number of times but each of the 21 performances could have screened the title and a brief description – many in the crowd used their phones as torches to peer at the 5 page programme in small font provided. And the screened photographic backdrops, whilst often showing the flower of Hindu sculpture and architecture, also roamed weirdly over inapt scenes as diverse as Paris, New York, Vienna, and Shiva knows where else.