For Daniel Phoenix Singh and his dance company Dakshina, dance represents the collective stories from their heritage — and a symbol of the connection between people of all cultures. “Dakshina means ‘offering’ in Sanskrit,” Singh says. “We really want to give back to the community in a committed way.”
Now in it’s twelfth year, Dakshina’s Fall Festival of South Asian Dance and Arts brings the culture of India and other South Asian countries to the District’s own Atlas Theatre. This year, Singh is taking connection to the next level — making it about family. “We decided to feature a parent-child artist duo each night,” Singh says. The dedication that comes with these cultural dances is passed down from generation to generation in South Asian culture. In fact, some dancers in India who are middle aged are only considered novices when it comes to their craft.
“Because of the amount of detail that goes into the dance, artists take a really long time,” Singh says. “Often, dancers who are in their forties and fifties and sixties are considered young dancers. That’s something very different than what happens in the west.”
To celebrate the experience of these dancers, Singh and his company have created a series of duet pieces performed by parents and their children entitled Dancing Through the Generations. Dr. Mallika Sarabhai, who notably performed in Peter Brook’s epic The Mahabharata, will dance with her daughter Revanta Sarabhai. For Dr. Sarabhai, dance is both entertainment and influence. Though her style tends to be more classical, she weaves in humor and political commentary to impact and educate her audience on issues present in the community. And her work is not just focused on dance. Through her leadership and advocacy, she built the “Center for Non-Violence,” India’s first organization to connect social justice to the arts.
“We’ve given Indian dance a platform to be seen as opera or ballet,” says Singh. “I think it’s important for the younger culture to see that here in D.C.” But not just see it, Singh wants them to take part in it. Even the tiniest of dancers will get a chance to show off their moves in the lobby before the show. “I want them to see themselves in the dancers, and think ‘I can be there someday.'”
The 12th Annual Fall Festival of South Asian Arts will be held on Friday October 30th through Sunday November 1st at the Atlas Performing Arts Center at 1333 H St. NE. Tickets range from $20 to $50. Visit dakshina.org.
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