The Time I saw the Diwali Festival Dance

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On the 2nd of November I went to see the live performance of Diwali Dance Party at the Town Hall in Flushing Queens. The event, lasted for four hours and showcased the Indian traditional dances, music, clothing and food. There were also workshops at the event, that included: Kathak dancing, Bhangra dance, open floor dance and information hubs. Other sessions included: cooking demonstrations, Indian traditional Henna painting, jewelry workshops, Indian fashions on display, games and Indian Ayurvedic medicine.

Flushing Town Hall is a two-story high facility built in 1862, design with Romanesque Revival style architecture. The facility includes a 308-seat concert hall/theatre, a gallery, a classroom, an office, a gift shop, outdoor accommodations for parking and events. The Town Hall is a Landmark, and is registered as a national historical place, protected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1967.

The event was kept in the theatre located on the second floor of the town hall. The configuration of the theatre provides clear view of the stage from every angle, with the stage being the focal point elevated above the seating areas. The theatre has a dark atmosphere with high ceilings, allowing sound to resonate across the spaces. There were large lighting and sound systems positioned on each side of the stage, that were used to enhance the visibility and sounds of the performances.

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The order of procession for the performances at the event, were broken down into five segments; starting with Kathak Dance workshop led by Abha Roy. She engaged the audience on the dancing floor between the stage and front seatings. Instructing the audience to her Kathak dance moves while performing to an Indian music story along with two kids dressed in blue traditional outfits that lasted for 30 minutes. The second performance was also led by Abha Roy, with another 30 minutes of electrifying Indian dance accompanying her a dance party of four women.

The third segment of the program was a Bhangra dance workshop, led by Alisha Desai and Rashmi Rajendran. Then finally DJ Rekha, thrilling the audience with electronic music, Bhangra and Bollywood sounds; spinning on turntables. Her mixing of music was filled with mostly heavy and fast beats. while Alisha and Rashmi dancing to her mixes, ending the live performances with an open dance floor – “Mashup”. The audience were engaged on the open floor, as they took lessons from the two women who joined DJ Rekha; they were thought different variations of dance moves, by moving shoulders, waist, hands and foot work while counting and moving to the beats of the music.

Abha Roy closed off the stage performances with an information session on Indian traditional dance and instruments, where the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions. Although, the music that played were recordings, she was asked to identify the instruments that were used to create the music that were played during the performances. She named few of the instrument, starting with the flute, the sitar a string instrument and tablar two-piece drum instrument. Roy elaborated on the significance of certain dance and music, she answered questions regarding the difference in classical and folk Indian dancing. She clearly explained that Indian dances are mostly sacred, emphasizing that classical Indian dance involved intricate movements of the body while listening and moving to the music, whereas Indian Folk dancing is where the entire village comes together, while listening to their traditional music and use simple movements that flowed with the beat, tone and timbre to enjoy themselves.

The performers at the Diwali Dance Party event are professionals that focuses on dance, teaching, choreographing, curating and producing. Abba Roy, Amanjeet Kaur, Sarika Persaud, Puja Singh, DJ Rekha and Alisha Desai. Abha Roy started her career as a classical dancer in 1984, completing her diploma in Kathak under the guidance of late great Guru Kundan Lal Gangani from India. Roy has conducted workshops and classes for New York City schools, universities libraries and museums since 1992, sharing apart of her Indian culture. Amanjeet Kaur started learning Kathak from the age of 11 and now gained experience in folk dance, collaborating with musicians and performing other Indian traditional dances.

Sarika Persaud is a senior student learning Kathak dance for 13 years. Puja Sing has been learning Kathak under the guidance of her Guru, Abha Bhatnagar, she has been learning Kathak since 2014 and enjoys the arts, painting, dance and especially the music. DJ Rekha, multi-talented DJ, producer curator and activist is known for merging Bhangra and Bollywood sounds with contemporary electronic dance music, and Alisha Desai is a professional dancer, choreographer, actor/singer, visual artist and educator. She is an expertise in many Indian dance styles, such as: Bollywood, Bharatantyam, semi-classical, Bhangra.

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