Celebrating life through festival dancing is the theme of this year's "Dances of India," now in its ninth year at Central Piedmont Community College.
Dr. Maha Gingrich, assistant chief information officer at CPCC, is presenting and choreographing the event. She danced professionally in her native India, has taught dance in Charlotte since 1986 and will be one of the more than 40 performers.
In India, Gingrich says, festivals mean religious festivals. The types of dances found there, like processional dances, can be found all over the world.
Gingrich's emphasis each year is on celebrating unity and diversity through dance, so this year's production will also feature festival dances from Greece. Greek mythology is very much like Indian mythology, Gingrich says; the gods and goddesses just have different names.
The performances will illustrate the importance of storytelling through dance. In the Indian classical tradition, facial expressions and hand gestures help tell the story.
Three Indian classical dance traditions will be demonstrated in the program.
The meaning of each dance will be explained beforehand. Gingrich wants the audience to come away with not only an appreciation for the dance's beauty but with a deeper understanding of the culture where it originated.
It will be traditional dancing, Gingrich says - no fusion or Bollywood. These dances are 2,000 to 3,000 years old.
Bharatha Natyam is a southern Indian classical dance form, one of the oldest in India. The meaning of its name is a combination of the words for expression, music and rhythm. It's known for geometrical patterns and sculpture-like poses.
Kuchipudi is the second southern Indian classical dance form that will be performed. It derives its name from the village of Kuchipudi in Andra Pradesh. It's primarily a solo dance for a woman, with quick, flowing movements.
The accompanying music is played on a veela, a stringed instrument, and a drum called a mridangam.
Gingrich says the mridangam has a strong, heavy percussive sound - especially when compared with the tabla, a drum used in classical dance from northern India.
Kathak is the northern Indian dance form that will be performed. The name Kathak is from the Sanskrit word "katha," meaning "story." It traces its roots to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India who performed in village squares and temple courtyards. They recounted mythological tales and stories from the Scriptures.
Its structure typically follows a progression from a slow to a fast tempo and ends with a dramatic climax. Kathak uses many stylized movements and relies on hand gestures and facial expressions to tell the story.
Music accompanying these dances is performed on a sitar, a stringed instrument, and a drum called a tabla.
The last dance of the production is the "signature dance," Gingrich says, and the theme has always been unity and diversity. African, Chinese and South American dances will be highlighted in this number.
This is a very family-friendly show, she says, and audiences will come away with an appreciation for the beauty of dance and the variety of other cultures.