Monday, March 22, 2010

Celebrating 30 Years

I'm incredibly exhausted after an absolutely exhilarating week. I don't even know where to start talking about it!

I guess last week would be best ... when I found myself feeling overwhelmed with what all I had left to accomplish this week before the gala ... I forced myself to write down a to-do list of everything I needed to get done ... because I would start working on something, remember three other things I needed to do, and leave the first, never to come back to it again. My to-do list comprised of 12 action items ... some of which were simple 10 minute jobs ... the majority of which were tasks that would take 2-4 hours to complete. I asked myself 'When did I become such an integral part of Chhandam?' But it made me happy ... as my father would say 'Nice problem to have.'

As if that wasn't enough, on Tuesday (4 days before the show) Guru ji introduced some FANTASTIC new material in class -- a tarana in raga Hindol, on a 12 1/2 beat cycle. It was absolutely mind boggling, to be able to keep up with it. He turns to me and Seibi and says 'Yeah, you should learn this. I'm going to do this on Saturday.' I think went into a delusional giggle at that point.

At that point, I pretty much stopped eating and sleeping for the rest of the week. And I'm not even exaggerating about the eating part. I had never accompanied Guru ji on stage as a vocalist before. I've sat on the rug, playing manjira, doing backup vocals with the main vocalist, but never as a main vocalist. The fact that he even asked me to do that was such a TREMENDOUS honor. It inspired me beyond belief -- and I knew that I could do it ... and that's all I could think about for the next few days.

And then I don't know what got into me that I decided to burn the candle on both ends ... with the musicians being in town, my sister coming in from Seattle, my friend Alexis' 30th birthday ... I went out three nights in a row ... something I haven't done in YEARS. I really think that I was so anxious and had all this extra energy, that I needed to do something with it, so I just decided to kill myself with staying up late, since I knew I wouldn't be able to fall asleep anyway.

Saturday was such a wonderful experience. A sold out show in a beautiful 1,000 person auditorium like the Palace of Fine Arts. The lobby was bustling with activity as the dozens of volunteers arranged displays highlighting the last 30 years of Chhandam's history. Photos and posters that none of us had ever seen before -- like a poster of a concert of Pandit Das (at that time still referred to as just Chitresh Das) and Ust. Allah Rakha Khan sahib, where tickets were $2,3, and $4 ! What a tremendous history!

The opening trailer of the organization set the tone for the evening -- it showed an organization that was so much more than just dance. It's about empowerment, self-discovery, and working for our society, for our legacy. And what a better way to show that, than a performance by the Youth Company girls! The little 8 year old girls opened the show -- it was their first real performance (and what a stage to debut on!) -- and they were absolutely fantastic. As I watched from the side, Theo (pianist) came up to me and asked what beat cycle the Malkauns Tarana was in. I counted teen taal with him on the side, and he was flabbergasted by the laykari that these little girls were working with -- he was struggling to find sam through most of it! The older Youth Company girls came on ... and blew everyone away with their strength, elegance, grace, and their presence. It was such a wonderful transition, to see the younger girls dance, and then follow it up with the slightly older ones -- you got the sense of where the younger ones would be a few years from now. As they all got together on the stage in the final part of the Tarana (all 22 of them!) the audience was absolutely stunned by this -- and this was only the opening act. A thunderous roar of applause roared from all 1,000 people as the girls finished, with big smiles on their faces.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mood Swings

I go from total boredom, listlessness and frustration ... to elation, purpose and motivation within minutes. That is what I mean when I say 'Guru gives light.' To the outsider, I may sound like a child, whose emotions are being easily manipulated ... but there's something to be said for 'positive manipulation.'
Anyway, for me, a simple sentence of encouragement will last me for weeks and weeks of positive energy, so I'll take it. And a sentence of discouragement ... will last me for weeks and weeks of 'I can prove you wrong, and therefore will work my butt off to do so.' So it's really a win-win situation now, isn't it?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Karmanye Vadhikaraste

Of course I didn't write while I was out in India ... there was so much going on, and had I actually written, it would have lent to some really great posts.

I've been back now, for over three weeks now. And nothing seems to be slowing down. As we creep up on our organization's 30th anniversary Performance & Gala, things are amping up at an exponential rate. And this is just a one night event ... I fear to think what it's going to be like when we are preparing for our Indian Classical Dance Festival -- Traditions Engaged ... which will be a 4 day event in SF, and a 3 day event in LA. I might lose a patch of hair, like my Guru-sister Seema did when planning our India tour!

Anyway, there are so many different areas to work on, and finding that focus and clarity is perhaps one of the biggest challenges right now. Last year, it was tunnel vision towards my solo. Having done that, now I am embarking on a path that has no set landmarks, no precedents to follow ... and so I am searching for that path ... there are ups, and there are downs, like in any quest. But I am believing more and more strongly in the philosophy of the Gita: Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani.'

Translation: You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.

That, coupled with a strong faith in one's Guru ji -- and there is no sawaal (question), no jawaab (answer).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Touring with the Company

Yet another long hiatus for my blog! I head out for India tomorrow ... and as usual, I am slacking on the packing and completing the to-do list ... and instead am writing on a dead blog. I'm frankly not excited about going to India at all ... I've been there too many times in the last couple of years. But I am excited about touring with the Chitresh Das Dance Company! We'll be performing 2 shows in Kolkata, 1 show in Mumbai, Pune, and Bangalore. I've actually never been to Pune or Bangalore, though I imagine I will hardly see any of these cities, considering the Mumbai-Pune-Bangalore shows are on the 29th-30th-31st (respectively). It's going to be busy!! I'm also trying to coordinate a solo performance for myself in Delhi in the first week of February. That's the performance I'm most stressed out about, to say the least.

Ok, off to India ... I hope to try to post things while I'm out there!