It is often said that the measure of a culture is truly found in its creative expression. Artists, musicians and writers have long been the standard bearers for national culture, and sharing that culture can make you proud to be a part of it. On Saturday at the Sule Shangri-La, the Indian embassy hosted an evening of cultural expression, translated through Alarmél Valli’s interpretation of Bharatanatyam dance.
Bharatanatyam dance is one of the most popular styles of Indian classical dance, traditionally performed solo by a female dancer. Alarmél Valli, a native of Chennai in the east of India, is one of the most accomplished Bharatanatyam dancers in the world; she has captivated audiences from Japan to the USA. It was no surprise then that at this standout performance there a number of notable guests in the audience; the ambassadors of China, Russia and India were all in attendance.
After introductory drinks and canapes, the Indian Ambassador gave an eloquent and impassioned speech explaining the artistry behind Bharatanatyam dance, which provided welcome context for the audience. Alarmél was accompanied by Indian musicians who employed traditional Indian instruments and song to great effect. The sumptuous setting and beautiful music set the stage for the lone dancer, and she swept onto the floor to great applause. Bharatanatyam is at its core a fire-dance, an ancient performance honouring Lord Shiva. The dancer must channel the energy of fire, and Alarmél perfectly mimicked the flowing, twisting shapes of a flame. The hotel ballroom was hushed, dark and warm; all the light drawn to the dancer at center stage, a blazing figure dressed in the colours of the sunset. The Bharatanatyam performance at at Sule Shangri-La was a wonderful evening and a fascinating glimpse into an aspect of Indian culture.