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.

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