Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Community as the Enabler

It is with great delight and gratitude that I observe it was the logistical and in-kind support of friends and family that enabled Big Medicine Charitable Trust, Udaipur and Vanaver Caravan to launch a world dance education pilot project in three Udaipur schools and a pilot dance studio.
Gustavo, Rita, R.J., Ramona, Marina & Miranda
I was personally supported during our extended work in Udaipur to organize this project by the kind donations of : Mark Phillips, Radha Case, Lin Zhou, Asa Kubiak and Kathy Sokol Kubiak.

At Laxmi's house with the Sufi singers
Photo courtesy R.J. Partingon lll
    At Purvi Bhargav's dinner table after
one of her a cooking classes.

I would like to thank Big Medicine USA founder director David Kubiak and Larry Dansinger, director of ROSC Big Med's fiscal sponsor for facilitating this Vanaver/BMCT collaboration as a fresh step in East-West cultural synergy, artistic co-creation and educational exchange..

Premilla Dixit Nag, director BMCT was instrumental in making the first connections with VC director Livia Vanaver,  and inviting her troupe to help design the BMCT's Shakti Academy of Dance project. Premilla worked closely with Livia and VC advertising the work we hope to do together in India. She got Livia and herself interviewed by ITV, New York host Ashok Vyas and assisted VC fundraising events for their Passage to India initiative. A bouquet of personal thanks goes to our friends, artist/photographer Jack Madson in California and Udaipur photographer Dinesh Pagaria who contributed marvelous photos for VC's fundraising efforts.

I am also deeply, deeply grateful to Bhargav Mistry, Shakti Academy project adviser who liaised between us and Mr Dashora, director of the West Zone Culture Center, Udaipur (WZCC) to invite BMCT to bring the VC to Udaipur's legendary Shilpgram Utsav festival. Mr Dashora and his artistic directors were kind enough to choose VC as the first foreign artists to ever perform in the Utsav Grand Finale.

It is our sincere hope that the photographic, audio-visual and written records of this pilot project will help funders to appreciate the importance of cross-cultural programs for the evolution of dance and dance education for the young. Here I would like to thank master photographer, R.J. Partington, who joined the four member VC dance troupe at the last minute to help document the project.

Although we could not raise the budget for the entire dance troupe, VC director Livia Vanaver felt, just as we did, it was important to run a small pilot project that could demonstrate our vision of education through dance. We are grateful that VC's community of friends came forward to enable Marina Lopez and Gustavo Caldas's trip to India. It is also sincerely gratifying that Miranda Ten Broeke could work out a scholarship for herself with  the help of her New School professors in New York. Her early arrival and extraordinary teaching talent got the project off to a truly inspiring start.  We are also indebted to Ramona Staffeld for taking the time to join VC's maiden tour to India. Miranda, Marina, Ramona and Gustavo were a perfect team of teachers working fluidly together despite many school schedule changes due to inclement winter weather.

On the Udaipur side I am deeply grateful for all the enthusiasm and collaborative effort this program received from our wonderful local partners. We would particularly like to thank Madhu Sareen, Sister Jyotsna and Father Remigius (principals of Mahila Mandal Indigenous Girls Senior Secondary School, St Mary Girl's Senior Secondary School, and St Paul's Senior Secondary School, respectively)..

Also deserving of heartfelt gratitude are all the participating teachers and students at the three schools as well as local dancer/choreographer Bharat Verma and his troupe for the energy they put into making the program a success.

Besides their daunting teaching schedules, the VC artists also found time for lessons of their own and rewarding exchanges with Udaipur artists and friends.

We would especially like to extend our thanks to Sayari Roots of Gypsy directors Sayari and Sheru for enlivening the welcome party for the VC crew and to their luminous dancer Rekha for teaching them Teratali and Sapera traditions.

One more round of grateful applause goes to event coordinator and dear friend Laxmi Vyas for introducing VC members to the electrifying Sufi singer Asif Khan and his band at a private dinner party at his home.

Yet another big thank you goes to Manish and Viddhi Jain for inviting Miranda, Marina, Ramona and Gustavo to perform at Shikshanter's Hal Chal Cafe before a packed delighted audience. Manish and Viddhi were wonderful hosts throughout the evening serving everyone deliciously cooked organic vegan food from the cafe's kitchen.

And speaking of feasting, Purvi and Bhargav Mistry treated us all to a memorable dinner and informal evening of dance and music with friends at their lovely home. And Renu Kabra also prepared numerous delicious meals for VC members and taught them local cooking arts as well.

Indeed, there were so many lively interactive learning opportunities during  cooking classes, massage lessons, impromptu parties, spontaneous performances, guided sight-seeing, and even the dance project’s two-hour grand finale concert.

Our dear and longtime family friend B.L. Kabra kindly took care of all the local official formalities for VC members. We must also appreciatively salute Raju Kabra and BSNL tech Usman-bhai for expeditiously connecting us all to the internet and the outside world; and BMCT’s part-time staff, Narain and Manish Golcha remained on call for daily help and emergency errands throughout the project.

Finally, I would like to offer appreciation to BMCT trustees, Kusum Meghwal and Kiran Murdia for their unstinting support of our projects and to Shakti Academy project adviser and veteran theatrical director, Bhanu Bharti, who was unable to attend the project, but offered us sincere encouragement and excellent ideas.

All in all it would be safe to say that the people of Udaipur were delighted with this first experimental BMCT/VC cultural exchange. Many expressed their enchantment with the charming VC dancers and their virtuoso teaching capabilities.

Thank you, Miranda, Marina, Ramona, Gustavo and RJ! Your incredible energy, talent and charm made this project a resounding success and Udaipur will remember you all.

The sensational results of this modest pilot project are wholly due to the participants’ energetic team efforts and the larger community that gathered together in support. The community was indeed the enabler and the inspiration for everything we do.

VC artistes with Bharat Verma & his troupe members
photo by RJ 

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