Nrityageet at 31, a treasure to celebrate

By Alva Solomon

Eleven-year old Cathy stands at the gate, her attention captivated by dancers as they go through their moves, and as she stares, it’s her desire to learn the art of dance if the opportunity is offered.

Amanda DeFreitas, Nrityageet 31 dancer. (Photo by Alva Solomon)

This is the storyline, which underlines this year’s presentation of Nrityageet, the annual dance theatre production put together by the Nadira and Indranie Shah Dance Troupe. This year’s event promises to be a spectacle and the dancers are currently fine-tuning their preparations for the 31st presentation of its kind.

Director/Producer of the dance company Dr Seeta Roath, during an interview with this newspaper at the group’s Gordon Street, Kitty base, said that this year’s presentation at the National Cultural Centre from May 14-16, will be held under the theme ‘Let’s  Treasure and Celebrate Our National Environment’. She said the dance choreographies, stage sets, props, music and costumes will portray mankind’s birth to the earth and his destruction of the environment. They will encompass the creation of the universe, global warming, man’s cultural and economic pursuits and impacts on nature as well as Guyana’s contribution to climate change.

She said the birth of this year’s production was inspired by Guyana’s participation at the Copenhagen summit last year. In addition to the new exceptional, classical, folk, jazz, rock and hip-hop among other popular dance choreographies she said preparations for this year’s event involve the participation of other choreographers including Vivian Daniel and Linda Griffith and the presentation will feature highlights of choreographies of the latter as well as other “great choreographers”.

Roath said that although the production has a strong Indo-Guyanese input, the choreographies for the show reflect an international repertoire incorporating dance styles from “Guyana’s multi-cultural background, drawing from global trends. At the same time the original form of Khatak, Orisi and Indian Folk will be featured as the show moves along.”

As the group members swung their bodies through the dance moves during the interview, Roath said that there are currently 52 members in the core group of the dance troupe. She said preparations for this year’s Nrityageet began in early March, but in actuality ideas were already in the making since the conclusion of the previous production.

Roath said the members range from different areas including primary and secondary schools, tertiary institutions such as the University of Guyana and some are in the working environment. Group member’s ages range between 5 to 14 years for the elementary level and16 and up for the senior category.

She said the senior dancers are the group’s instructors, and they are tasked with passing on the art to the younger ones. While dancing may appear to be just dancing, Roath said that the dancers have to know the various dance concepts; they carry out research on the concepts while providing historical and contemporary background of them.

The director stated that rehearsals have been in top shape to date and as the time winds down to the production date the dancers, a usual jovial bunch, slip into third gear, with their minds focused on the production pieces on the stage. She said there is room for error, which goes in line with Murphy’s Law, but if the dancer perfects the art, he/she may go unnoticed. She posited that errors may be the result of over confidence but the instructors would work with the dancer in order to remove the errors.

Recounting her experiences thus far with the dance troupe, Rewattie Datt, who was in charge of the dancers during our visit to the group’s rehearsal session, said she has participated in Nrityageet since its 16th edition in year 2000 and after spending some 5 years with the troupe, she became a choreographer. Her first choreography was done using the troupe’s folk filmi style with music from Bollywood tune “Anjoori”. She participated in Carifesta X here and according to her, “Nrityageet has been my life for as long as I can remember apart from my professional life”.

Almasi Allen’s inspiration in joining the group came though her mother who she said has been dancing all her life. As a senior member of the group, she has been empowered to be innovative, to express her ideas and to be involved. She said she sees dancing in her future and she recently climbed the ladder, as she put it, and started her own choreographies for Nrityageet.

A standout during the interview/rehearsal was Amanda DeFreitas. The young dancer, who studies Information Technology at the University of Guyana, has been with the troupe for about two years and she has reached a high degree of mastery of Indian classical and folk dancing. She said she looks forward to improving her kathak and she encouraged the younger ones in the bunch to learn the different styles she has come to learn.

Tickets for this year’s production will soon go on sale and will be sold for $1,000 and $2,000.

The Nadira and Indranie Shah Dance troupe has been thrilling audiences through Nrityageet – the word signifies pure song and dance. The troupe has won numerous awards here and overseas under the eyes of the Shah Family. The group has performed both locally and on the international stage, including Sweden, Barbados and in Germany. According to the director of the troupe, “every year we are always building on what we have done so far.”

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