World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival

FESTIVAL DANCERS

Xpressions

NATIONAL/ETHNIC IDENTITY: India
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Srividya Eashwar
First appearance in SF EDF: 2010
Website: xpressionsdancemusic.com

Established in 2003, Xpressions is a leading dance group in the Bay Area specializing in Indian folk dance traditions. Led by Artistic Director Srividya Eashwar, Xpressions dancers take great pride in presenting traditional choreography blended with new techniques. They have won multiple awards at local dance competitions, and have presented house productions, workshops, and performances at school and community events, collaborated locally with other cultural groups, and raised funds for nonprofits.

2016 PERFORMANCE

DANCE ORIGIN: Maharashtra, India
GENRE: Folkloric
TITLE: Jai Jai Maharashtra—Tribute to Maharashtra
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER: Srividya Eashwar
DANCERS: Shreya Adloori, Vibha Arun, Akshata Atre, Anjali Bathula, Surabhi Biyani, Sonika Biyani, Srividya Eashwar, Radha Ganesh, Aanchal Garg, Tania Godbole, Alisha Gupta, Neeti Indiresan, Riya Jorapur, Meghan Lamba, Rhea Lamba, Isha Maniyar, Maya Mohan, Shreya Munnangi, Rujuta Munshi, Treya Parikh, Kavya Shah, Medha Shah, Reha Shah, Ria Sonecha, Ananya Srinivas, Swetha Srinivasan, Anna Purna Subbanna

WORLD PREMIERE

Oh God, I have come to your doorstep to sing your praise.
You are most kind and benevolent


From India’s state of Maharashtra, Jai Jai Maharashtra—Tribute to Maharashtra—showcased devotional folk dance from rural Indo-Aryan Marathi people, whose history looks back more than two millennia. These dances are Maharashtra’s cultural treasures.

Dindi expresses love for Lord Vithal (Krishna). Each year, for 700 years, varkari pilgrims have undertaken a spiritual journey—up to 300 kilometers on foot—to Pandharpur Temple, singing and dancing in trance. The song Maauli Maauli proclaims a desire to see Vithal.

Gondhal invokes peace. Devotees dance all night, singing Aai Bhavani to praise Mother Goddess Bhavani. Platform offerings—coconut, rains, nuts, leaves, flowers, and plant stalks—signify the Goddess’ presence. Gondhali artists initiated with shell necklaces perform a prayer, circling and spinning with torches, reenacting Bhavani’s battle against evil.

Jogva means alms given to Jogtins—rural children who travel as devotees. Turmeric smeared on foreheads, carrying images of Devi, they sing and dance in praise, rolling heads as Devi enters body and soul. Their song, Aaicha Jogva Magen, promises the Goddess will provide. This age-old jogva tradition is disappearing; concerned social workers hope to end it.

Lezim evolved from Maratha warrior training into a favorite dance during ten-day celebrations for Ganesha, the elephant-headed God. In community processions, dancers perform lines and circles, steps and squats, singing Morya for a famous devotee, creating music with cymbals and lezim rods with jingling discs.

Artistic Director Srividya Eashwar set this piece in 2015. Her choreography is influenced by Bhakti-Devotion traditions passed down for centuries; she learned the dances growing up in Maharashtra. The folk songs for Gondhal and Jogva are centuries old. Modern devotional songs accompany Dindi and Lezim. Traditional instruments include the Maharashtra sitar; dhol, mridanga, and tashe flat drums; veena; cymbals; and the single-stringed tuntune.

The women wear choli blouses and nine-yard nauvari saris. The Gondhali men wear tight churidar pants with flowing angarkha tops, cowrie-shell necklaces, stud earrings. Mawli- warrior turbans are traditional, as are the varkari pilgrims’ headpiece, kurta, and dhoti. The dancers’ jewelry is made in Kolhapur and Pune, inspired by Maratha and Peshwa Dynasties. The color symbolism is important: red for sensuality, purity, auspiciousness, Shakti; saffron for sacredness, fire, and a quest for light; yellow for knowledge, peace, and meditation; green for nature, life, and happiness.

2013 PERFORMANCE

DANCE ORIGIN: India
GENRE: Folkloric
TITLE:  Jai Jai Rajasthan (Victory to Rajasthan)
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CHOREOGRAPHER: Srividya Eashwar

WORLD PREMIERE

DANCERS: Surabhi Biyani, Nimisha Devanagondi, Esha Krishnamoorthy,
Meghan Lamba, Sameehita Mohan, Rujuta Munshi, Maya Murthy, Ria Parwal, Maya Prasad, Sanika Puranik, Madhuri Ravuri, Pallavi Saharia, Neythra Srinivasan, Avani Vaid, Kanika Vora, Devika Watave

Jai Jai Rajasthan—Victory to Rajasthan is a showcase of folk songs and dances from diverse village within India’s northwestern state, Rajasthan. Here is praise to the vibrant life in India’s inhospitable Thar Desert, once the land of the Rajasthani kings:

Glory to my land, Rajasthan. I cannot sing and dance enough in its praise...every grain of sand in this desert echoes as I sing “Jai Jai Rajasthan!”

The dance styles presented are:

Ghoomar, from the Bhil Tribe and adopted by many Rajasthani communities, with a distinctive pirouette, measured steps, and a graceful weaving dance. A new bride dances ghoomar when entering her husband’s home. The songs tell of young dancing women from Marwar, and of women dancing for Lord Shiva’s wife, Gauri.

Chari, a dance of the Kisherigarh region. As women walk miles for water they balance chari pots on their head. In performance, they burn cottonseeds in these pots, so their processions create illuminating patterns. The song compares the beautiful chimi seed to beautiful Rajasthani women.

Terah Taali, a devotional dance from Kaamad communities. Terah refers to the thirteen brass manjeera or cymbals that dancers strike upon their costumes. The song tells of devotees singing, dancing, and praying to Saint Baba Ramdev.

Kalbeliya, from the Saperas of the Kalbeliya snake-charmer community when the nomadic Kalbeliyas caught snakes and traded snake venom. The dance movements and costumes resemble serpents, and the music is from the snake-charming been or pungi flute. These days, Kalbeliya is performed as entertainment, celebration, or for cultural pride, and it’s protected as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. The song means “jump in” and sings of joy, spirit, and ancient traditions.

Chakri
, performed by nomadic Kanjar girls who earn their livelihoods dancing at celebrations, showcase the beautiful costumes with chakri spins. The song is Jai Jai Rajasthan. All of their Rajasthani costumes and jewelry, from head to toe, establish identity, religion, economic rank, and social status. The ghaghara skirt is worn short, to show foot ornaments; its width and pleats mark prosperity. Various tribes—Banjaras, Bhils, and Gayaris—deck up in jewelry, including borlas in the hair and the chudlas bangles of metal and coconut shells. This piece was choreographed and set in 2012 by Srividya Eashwar.

2010 PERFORMANCE

Title: Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat (Glory to Gujarat)
Dancers: Kavitha Aravindhan, Swetha Balaji, Namrata Garg, Anisha Gogineni, Advaith Iyer, Sonali Iyer, Sagaree Jain, Shruti Malige, Kavya Munnangi, Jyotsna Natarajan, Ritu Parwal, Shubha Raghavendra, Nikkitha Ramchander, Pallavi Rao, Keerthana Sankar, Sanjana Surkund, Samantha Uppalapati

The song Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat – Glory to Gujarat opens a performance of the same name: a suite of joyful mandala dances from the western state of Gujarat. The opening piece invokes the Divine Mother:

You are our protector and savior and we can sing and dance in your praise all night.

The next dance, Garba, is popular during the nine-day Navratri celebration (and also in American universities). A lamp in an earthen pot symbolizes life growing inside a woman. Dancers bend and clap, praying to the Divine Mother, Amba Mata.

Tippani is an every-day dance from laborers in the Chorwad region of Saurashtra. The women—whose job it is to pound gravel into the floor—sing at a high pitch, hoping to be heard over the pounding of their mallets.


Manjira are the little brass bells played in this dance by the Padhaar in Bhalnalkantha. Padhaars skillfully jingle their manjira while expressing devotion in full body movements. This dance praises Lord Rama Pir, and it's unusual in that it's performed by both Muslim and Hindu devotees.


Dandiya Raas is derived from the ancient Ras Leela, the famous dance in which Lord Krishna danced with the Gopis (cowherd girls) and made each girl feel he danced with her alone. The short sticks represent swords, to cut away evil.

Costumes in this part of India are vibrant, in contrast to the surrounding desert: they are embroidered with beads and mirrors and with ancient motifs of flora, fauna, and myth. Full skirts and dhotis provide protection from the sun, and the silver jewelry is a specialty from Kutch. The music is traditional Gujarat.


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