Ballets retell India’s ancient tales (Feature)

By Shilpa Raina

New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) — It’s an endearing saga that’s lasted for decades and will endure for many more: retelling stories of mythological characters like Ram and Krishna and goddesses like Kali and Durga through the performing arts to bridge the gap between myth and reality in the complex stories.

“You will be surprised how many older people only know the widespread, well-known story of Ramayana and Ram. Like Ram was one of four brothers, he broke the bow, he was banished to the forest by Kaikeyi, he killed Ravan and then he came back,” Shobha Deepak Singh, director of the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK), whose latest annual offering “Festival of Ballets” has been running since Friday, told IANS in an interview.

“They don’t know the subject at all. Our duty is to inform people what lies below the subject and dance is a vibrant medium to connect with the old and young generations,” she added, saying episodes like Sita undergoing a fire ordeal don’t even find a mention in Tulsidas’ Ramayana.

Hence the expertise of the 70-year-old Singh lies in bridging this gap between ignorance and what is actually written in the works. Relying heavily on self-driven meticulous research before the start of a new production is the secret recipe of these celebrated productions that are an annual affair in the capital.

Be it the popular story of “good versus evil” in Ram ballet or many shades of the life of Krishna, these ever-popular annual festivals, along with ballet festivals and music festivals, the SBKK has year after year produced successful productions for discerning audiences.

“Festival of Ballets” comprises four productions: “Meera” that chronicles the life of the Krishna devotee; “Durga” that celebrates the power of women; “Karna” on the life of a character in the Mahabharata; and “Kumar Sambhava”, the story of the demon Tarak. The festival ends May 17.

“We chronicle their life and use mythology to extend the meaning of these episodes. A lot of research goes into this and we also have to keep in mind that mythologies offer a space which comes with certain boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed,” said the Padma Shri recipient, who has under her belt over 30 productions in the past four decades.

“I read analyses of stories and ask myself many questions related to the characters that push me to explore further. Like, I kept asking myself why Sita kept running after the golden deer. And I thought it may be reflecting a desire to seek something materialistic,” she added.

Singh had an inclination for performing arts at an early age and became associated with the Kendra in 1968.

A self-trained photographer, choreographer and costume and ornament designer, Singh has learned Kathak from masters like Shambhu Maharaj and Birju Maharaj and music from Biswajeet Roy Chowdhary and Amjad Ali Khan.

Singh, who herself conceptualises and directs the contemporary-mythological dance ballets, admits that the most challenging part of her job is to translate the text into choreography.

“Choreography is the most challenging aspect of such productions. Like in ‘Kumar Sambhava’ I had to translate a scene where Shiva’s semen was kept in six matkis (pots). So, I had to think a lot to choreograph this bit,” said Singh, who has also trained under theatre doyen Ebrahim Alkazi.

“But, in the end, this is what is satisfactory – giving visual vocabulary to a challenging scene. Other elements that are important for any good production are choreography, sets, lighting, music and costume,” Singh concluded.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at

IANS 2014-05-12 13:40:04


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.



U.S. teen pilot seeking record for around-the-world flight dies in ocean crash, Pakistan-born father missing

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS INDIANAPOLIS — A U.S. teenager who was attempting to set a record for an around-the-world flight was killed when his plane crashed…
Continue Reading »

Surrey-weight lifter-Commonwealth Games-Glasgow

Surrey weightlifter Parm Phangura bound for Commonwealth Games

MICHAEL BOOTH SURREY NOW FLEETWOOD — 163+205=368. That stark equation scrawled in the top corner of a chalkboard means little to a casual observer, but…
Continue Reading »

British Columbia

Ferocious tyrannosaurs might have roamed in packs, newly discovered B.C. footprints suggest

THE CANADIAN PRESS VANCOUVER — Fossilized footprints uncovered in northeastern British Columbia suggest the ferocious tyrannosaurs that ruled the Earth 70 million years ago just…
Continue Reading »


Surrey-weight lifter-Commonwealth Games-Glasgow

Surrey weightlifter Parm Phangura bound for Commonwealth Games

MICHAEL BOOTH SURREY NOW FLEETWOOD — 163+205=368. That stark equation scrawled in the top corner of a chalkboard means little to a casual observer, but…
Continue Reading »

BC man charged in Syria terrorism

Burnaby man accused of joining Islamist fighters in Syria (w/video)

DOUGLAS QUAN AND TIFFANY CRAWFORD POSTMEDIA NEWS A British Columbia man accused of taking up arms in Syria has become the first person to be…
Continue Reading »

Surrey-Gurdwara president-wife

Funeral set for wife of former Surrey Sikh temple president who died after alleged domestic assault

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI The funeral for Surrey wife and mother Narinder Singh Kalsi, who died in hospital after an alleged domestic-related incident, will take…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...


Tipsy British tourist asked to leave church after mistaking it for a disco

CEN AGENCY A tipsy British tourist had to be asked to leave a church in Crete where he started dancing after local kids told him…
Continue Reading »

BC Sikhs

Frustrated Port of Metro Vancouver truckers want government to push companies to comply with action plan

THE CANADIAN PRESS VANCOUVER — Drivers servicing the country’s largest port urged government on Monday to take swift action against trucking companies, which they say…
Continue Reading »

Rashida Samji

B.C. Securities Commission finds Vancouver woman who ran a Ponzi scheme committed $100 million fraud

ALMAS MEHERALLY VANCOUVER DESI VANCOUVER – A B.C. Securities Commission panel has found that a Vancouver woman and two companies she controlled committed a $100-million fraud….
Continue Reading »


Canada balks at returning Indian statue of a woman believed stolen from Khajuraho temple

DOUGLAS QUAN POSTMEDIA NEWS  India is trying to repatriate a “voluptuous” 12th-century statue of a woman with a parrot on her bare shoulder that somehow…
Continue Reading »


TransLink says human error caused SkyTrain meltdown Monday

The SkyTrain power outage that stranded thousands of commuters Monday afternoon was caused by human error, according to TransLink. An experienced electrician was installing a…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood Latest

Slam! The Tour  poster Horizdesi

Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone gear up for Bollywood extravaganzas in Vancouver, Toronto and the U.S.

IANS New Delhi – Superstar Shah Rukh Khan is ready to shake a leg with his fans in the US after a gap of 10…
Continue Reading »

Actress Alia Bhatt attends the Highway premiere during 64th Berlinale International Film Festival at Zoo Palast on February 13, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

Alia Bhatt feels she’s too young to team up with Bollywood’s Khans

IANS Mumbai – Bollywood’s reigning Khans are in their late 40s and 21-year-old Alia Bhatt feels she needs to look more matured to look convincing…
Continue Reading »

Priyanka Chopra

If Hollywood has Hilary Swank, we have Priyanka Chopra: Bollywood filmmaker

IANS Mumbai – Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali compares Priyanka Chopra with “Million Dollar Baby” star Hilary Swank insisting that only “Barfi” star could pull of…
Continue Reading »