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