Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dance Parade

Distant drum sounds that gradually became louder filled my neighborhood a couple weeks ago. I looked out the bedroom window and here's what I saw.

Dancing on the streets of Manhattan!

It was the New York Annual Dance Parade. We saw many different forms of dance performed down on University Place. Albanian, Belly Dance, Street Dance, Modern, Flamenco, Hip-Hop, Rumba, Swing, Salsa, Tribal, Tango, Korean and YES, of course Bhangra, and many more.

New York has a silly law that you are not allowed to dance at bars or restaurants if the place doesn't have a "dance license". Crazy, I know. Can you imagine if they did that in Europe? A revolution waiting to happen.

I enjoyed seeing so many different forms of dance all coming together on this day in the celebration of dance. Inspiring!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Kathak, My New Love

My lovely dance instructor invited me and another good friend (also a lover of all things Indian) to perform Kathak at a stylish wedding of two Bohemian artists in New York City several weeks ago. Hmmm...being Indian for a day?...let me think about that one...umm...YES, I'll do it!!

It was such a fantastic experience and a night I will remember forever. My dear friends that I danced with are two of the most special and beautiful souls I know. They are the type of women who inspire and uplift with their warm presence and spiritual energy. Time stands still when I'm with them. I felt like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight when the evening ended.


And....the special evening was just one more excellent excuse to wear my bangles, anklets and bindi!

My interest in Kathak began when my husband and I were in India in December last year. I had been dancing "Bollywood" for a while and looking for something more traditional and spiritual. In Delhi, we stayed with Mahesh's very good friend, Sanjay and his gracious wife, Priya. Their lovely 12 year old daughter, Saraswati, practices Kathak and put on a wonderful performance for us during our stay. Her dance instructor sang bols (rhythmic words) and played his tabla to direct her dance. He comes to their home each week for Saraswati's practice. Her mastery at spinning made me dizzy. I could only hope to become that good.

Also, while staying at Udaipur's Lake Palace (see previous post Sweet Lap of Luxury), I was entranced by the Kathak performer. She danced with so much soul and mesmerized the entire audience, especially the men! I am learning the power of abhinaya which is body language and expression without speech.

Kathak (which translates: to tell a story) is an ancient art originating in the 13th century in Hindu temples. I enjoy learning about Hinduism through the spirit of the dance which is embedded with the elegant poses resembling the many manifestations of God, including Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Ganesh. One of my favorite poses is Shiva, which is why I now have this nagging hip pain :).

My dance instructor gracefully teaches about abhinaya (expression), mudras (divine hand gestures) and fast rhythmic foot work. Above all, she teaches by example that dance comes from within the spirit and needs to be felt from the soul.
I am so looking forward to our next performance...


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Best Mango in the World?

Alphonso, Benishaan (or Banganpalli in Telugu and Tamil) and Kesar mango varieties are considered by many (those lucky enough to have tried one) among the best mangoes in the world. I've only tried the aplhonso's, and the flavour is...umm, wow! It is difficult to describe, but I'll have a go at it: distinct, highly concentrated, very sweet and juicy, having a superior "zing-factor", earthy (almost "gamey" but a non-meat version, if that makes any sense). In fact, unripe mangoes are more sour than lemons and are therefore popularly used as a souring agent in Indian cooking. As for the color of this scrumptious fruit, it is a brilliant orange like I've never seen before.

This may come as a surprise to many, but mangoes are originally native to India even though they are now grown in many tropical areas all over the world.

Interestingly, the skin is chock-full of antioxidants as is the case with the skins of many other fruits and vegetables. I'll think twice before throwing the peels away, even though my husband would never consider chewing on one as he was brought up believing you don't eat them. Even as I write this he has a uncomfortable look on his face as he leans over my shoulder...