If being thoroughly entertained by a blend of powerful music, dynamic dance, colourful costumes, and improvised dialogue sounds like your cup of tea, the place to be next Tuesday is most definitely in Leeds, where Yakshagana will give you a glimpse of total theatre.
Complete or total theatre might be defined as a full spectrum theatrical experience – a feast for the senses. A heady blend of music, costume, dance, and speech that makes it a pleasure to the eyes and to the ears; that stimulates the emotions and the intellect, whilst ultimately evoking joy in the spectator.
Vibrant local and international collaborations
Yakshagana is a traditional South Asian total theatre stage performance, which literally translates as ‘the people who are nature spirits’. Acclaimed Yakshagana performers the Yakshadhruva Patla Foundation Trust, based in Mangaluru, are on their first tour of this country and are being hosted in Yorkshire by Devika Rao Dance Theatre from the city, with support and collaboration from Balbir Singh Dance Company (BSDC) – an Arts Council England funded National Portfolio Organisation also from Leeds.
Devika Rao Dance Theatre are a female led, young, diverse ambitious team who are committed to delivering high-quality traditional Indian/South Asian dance and theatre works to wider communities. Their mission commits them to engage communities with South Asian dance dialogue journeys that encourage involvement in performing arts to empower and optimise the health and wellbeing of the public i.e., the youth and children of the future, by delivering educational activities, historical projects, eco-awareness programmes, workshops, and performances in the UK and beyond.
BSDC are also engaging with the visitors, involving them in several of their many activities including Gledhow Valley Woods’ ‘Roots and Routes’ project events. They are currently working with the Willow Tree Academy school in Rotherham and involving them with their award-winning ‘Unmasking Pain’ project with Durham University and the formative stages of the new ‘Cricket Green’ work.
Indian mythology brought vividly to life
The foundation’s performance, often lasting all night, is a heady mixture of moral instruction, enlightening entertainment, the depiction of the Indian mythological stories together with creative interpretations of puranic lore.
One of the foundation’s proudest achievements is the way in which they can offer financial and medical help to the poorer artists whenever they are in need, offering a new optimism and assurance of security both to the art itself and to the artists.
This week I was fortunate to speak to Professor M L Samaga of the foundation, who described Yakshagana as a “unique form of theatre, six or seven hundred years old … they are delighted to be bringing it to a whole new audience. It is both a form of communication and a type of entertainment. It is a very flexible type of theatre that can be extended and varied, both in speech and dance”.
Professor Samaga went on to say that with all its different elements it is really:
“Complete or total theatre – with the music costume, dance, and speech it gives pleasure to the eyes and to the ears, it gives happiness to the mind, it is emotional and intellectual theatre. To a large degree you interpret it yourself and everyone interprets it differently.”
Tuesday 27 June’s events at the University of Leeds (details from press release) are:
Unveiling the Secrets of Performance Art: Learn from the masters from India & UK (10am–12pm)
Explore the history, tradition, makeup, costume, choreographic movements, improvised dialogues, character building, and elements of Yakshagana with Prof ML Samaga, Patla Santish, and professional artists of Yaksha Dhruva from India. It also includes a conversation with UK Performing Arts Industry Leaders Prof George Rodosthenous, Balbir Singh, Steve Ansell and Prof Adam Strickson.
Narakaasura Moksha – Story of Diwali: vibrant Yakshagana Dance Theatre performance with live music (2–4pm)
Hosted by Devika Dance Theatre With guidance from Prof Samaga, Satish Patla, and Balbir Singh (UK).
Experience the enchantment of Diwali like never before as we present ‘Narakaasura Moksha’ at the Yakshadhruva Patla Foundation. Join us on this remarkable journey through time and immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Indian mythology and folklore.
On this mesmerising afternoon, be captivated by a spellbinding performance that brings to life the ancient tale of Narakaasura, a formidable demon vanquished by the divine intervention of gods and goddesses. Witness breath-taking dance sequences, intricately adorned costumes, and stunning set designs that transport you to a realm where legends come alive. Let yourself be swept away by the dynamic rhythms of live musicians and the nimble footwork of talented Yakshagana dancers. Feel the pulse of Diwali coursing through your veins as you embark on this epic journey of triumph and liberation.
This performance promises to be a feast for the senses, an experience that will leave you awestruck and inspired. Do not miss this unforgettable celebration of Diwali. Don’t miss this incredible celebration of Indian culture and performance art.
Sudarshana Vijaya – Story of Vishnu’s Weapon: a vibrant Yakshagana Dance Theatre performance with live music (7–9pm)
Hosted by Devika Dance Theatre With guidance from Prof Samaga, Satish Patla, and Balbir Singh (UK)
Prepare yourself for an extraordinary evening of awe-inspiring performances as we present ‘Sudarshana Vijaya’ at the Yakshadhruva Patla Foundation. Brace yourself for a night of unrivalled artistic brilliance, where the story of Vishnu’s divine weapon unfolds in all its glory.
Witness a symphony of movement and emotion as renowned Yakshagana dance theatre artists bring to life the epic tale of Sudarshana, the legendary discus wielded by Lord Vishnu. Marvel at the precision and grace of the performers as they depict the cosmic battle between good and evil, transporting you to a realm where gods and demons clash in an epic struggle for righteousness.
Indulge your senses in the resplendent costumes, mesmerizing music, and evocative storytelling that make this performance a true masterpiece. Allow yourself to be swept away by the sheer power and majesty of the narrative as Vishnu’s weapon asserts its might and ensures the triumph of righteousness.
This is an evening that promises to be etched in your memory forever. Don’t miss your chance to witness the grandeur of ‘Sudarshana Vijaya’ and be part of this extraordinary experience.
Don’t miss this incredible celebration of Indian culture and performance art.
To book go to Events: stage@leeds
Thanks to the University of Leeds for details of the upcoming events and ticketing information.