The Nadira and Indranie Shah Dance Troupe, are staging Nrityageet 40 at the National Cultural Centre on May 3rd & 4th, 2019 at 20:00 hours as their final annual dance theatre production. Although the Troupe will continue training and performing upon request for other cultural stage productions, the annual show Nrityageet, will no longer be a regular feature of the Guyanese Theatre offerings after Nrityageet 40. From Indian Immigration Day observances to Arrival Day commemoration: This dance theatre production marks 40 years of remembering and celebrating – through dance, song, poetry and dance drama – the arrival of the first batch of East Indians to British Guiana on May 5, 1838.
Although the Shah sisters have been performing classical and folk dancing for over 50 years, the first annual dance productions of Nrityageet, 1 and 2, were held at the Queen’s College Auditorium on May 5th, 1979, and May 4th 1980. Thereafter, Nrityageet Dance Theatre were presented at the National Cultural Centre up to this, the 40th annual show. Founding member, Nadira Shah Berry, points out that before Nrityageet, there were no annual commemoration stage programmes for Indian Arrival and stage dances were of the more popular filmi type and nightclub gyration style. These pioneers, the Nadira & Indranie Shah Dance Troupe, have opted to discontinue their annual dance theatre productions that adhered to artistic dance choreographies, dance theatre settings and costumes. Reasons given include, a lack of sustained interest from the business community and the Guyanese audience’s seeming preferences for glamour, glitter and the more popular Indian dance styles.
Director, Dr. Seeta Shah Roath reiterated that as a troupe, “We dance for the love of dance, the love of the arts, the love of theatre arts. Our grand-parents and their ship family were producing Ramlilas in the Rice “factory” in Belair and Turkeyen, since they came in the 1800s. Costume making, male dancing, dramatic dance productions have been in the family for generations. And the Nadira & Indranie Shah Dance Troupe will continue performances locally and internationally but Nrityageet Dance production will no longer be an annual production. It stops at Nrityageet 40.”
The Nrityageet cast includes a young cohort who have been working together for the past 10 years. Their repertoire includes Kathak, Kuchipudi, Indian folk, filmi-folk and modern dance styles. These performers are also students of Nadira Shah Berry and Seeta Shah Roath and graduates of Theatre Arts programmes both local and international.
Nrityageet has followed a path of diversity through dance and Guyanese of all ethnic origins share and perform Indian dance of different dance styles that are as diverse as its performers. National Dance Company and National Dance School have been an empowering partner in training and performing and so too are the numerous dance teachers of the Indian Cultural Centre from 1976 to 2018. From Pratap and Priya Pawar, Pt. Durgallall, Pt. Charan Girdhar Chand who were the original classical and folk-dance teachers of Nadira and Indranie Shah, followed by many subsequent teachers who helped train the younger Troupe members. Indranie received further training in India benefiting from a scholarship that both sisters were offered. Nadira opted to continue her training in Guyana and performing worldwide with the troupe and her gurus even acting as the Indian Cultural Centre’s dance teacher from 1977 to 1983 when her Guru was indisposed.
Over the forty years, Nrityageet dance theatre productions have received a number of awards of excellence in the arts. These include the “Icon of the Arts” award from the Theatre Guild of Guyana. This is added to receiving Guyana’s National Award, the Medal of Service, for ”Sustained and Outstanding Contribution to the Cultural Mosaic of Guyana.” In theatre arts Nrityageet received over six annual awards from the Guyana’s Theatre Arts Awards (TAA) for “Best Dance Production,” “Best Costumes” and “Best Set” even being nominated for “Best Director” for five years. The Madame Iffel Award of Barbados for “Best Dance Production”. Also receiving a special award by the TAA for 21 years of ‘Exceptional Diligence in the Pursuit of Excellence’ and from the New York group of Guyanese, New York Folk Festival, for ”Long and Sustained Dance Productions of Excellence”. Nadira Shah Berry recently received an award from GOPIO (International) for being an “Icon of preservation and promotion of Indian and Indo-Caribbean Dance, music, drama, poetry, and providing a forum for Cultural exchanges as well as cultural integration of dance and choreography.“
Nadira Shah Berry said, “Nrityageet 40 celebrates 181 years since the arrival of the first East Indians to Guyana. We were the first to start Indian Immigration Commemoration in Dance Theatre, 40 years ago and have never missed a year since we started. Our repertoire includes, how Indian cultural trends have permeated into Guyanese culture in dance, costumes, and ethnic participation. We have created and performed many plays, Ramlilas, classical, folk and popular dance theatre and diversity multimedia presentations on the National Cultural Centre, Monument Gardens Stage and for National and International programmes such as the Inter-Guiana Cultural Festival, CARIFESTA, World Expo and many other programmes around the world.
The dates for Nrityageet 40 are Friday May 3rd, 2019, under the general theme: “Unity in Diversity in Dance” and the specific Theme of “Be the Best that You Can Be”.
The founders of the Nadira & Indranie Shah Dance Troupe are Bhanmattee Shah, Nadira Shah Berry & Indranie Shah Lennartson. Nrityageet’s Technical Director for over 37 years is Dr. Seeta Shah Roath. Suzanne Shah Nilsson is a Producer and senior Dancer. Rewattie Datt is a senior dancer who has been performing on Nrityageet since Nrityageet 16. Indira Itwaru started from Nrityageet 29 while Sony Sikandar has been a student and performer since Nrityageet 30. Over 1000 dancers have graced the stage of Nrityageet and many have expressed regrets at its departure as an annual dance theatre production. They are reassured that the Nadira and Indranie Shah Dance Troupe will continue to train and perform in Guyana and abroad. The associated performers such as the Guyana Ramlila Group continues on in full force preserving our heritage and celebrating our culture.
Dr. Seeta Shah Roath, Ed.D.
Director, Nrityageet, Nadira &
Indranie Shah Dance Troupe