Dancing her way to glory 

Debarati Palit Singh
Monday, 9 September 2019

Dancer Vaishali Sagar and her team won the Jury Award at the prestigious International Büyükçekmece Culture and Art Festival, Turkey. She talks about the experience and adds her bit to the debate on balancing authenticity and fusion in performances

We, as a nation, are in a celebration mode because of different reasons. Mumbai-based folk dancer Vaishali Sagar and her team's win at the 20th International Büyükçekmece Culture and Art Festival, Turkey, adds to the merriment. 

Sagar won the Jury award at Büyükçekmece, which is one of the biggest and well-known folk dance festival and competition in the world. Her win was appreciated by several Bollywood celebrities like Hrithik Roshan, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Poonam Dhillon and Sussanne Khan.

“Büyükçekmece is the best festival in the world when it comes to folk dances so that makes the award super special,” she says, adding, “Dance for many is a hobby, but to me it has been never ending zeal that drives me and gives me ultimate happiness. It was an exhilarating moment when Indian folk dances were recognised with the winning trophy at the competition. It gives you immense pride when your hard work is recognised. My sole aim is now to get Indian folk dance highlighted and recognised on other international platforms.” 

The president of Büyükçekmece had noticed Sagar’s dance troupe in 2015, when it had participated in The Cheonan International Dance Festival in South Korea and won two awards including the bronze medal. “He had invited us but because Büyükçekmece was such a huge festival, I wanted more time to prepare. I took three years to learn more dance forms and styles, make the girls stronger and train our bodies,” says the dancer. 

Sagar and her team of 19 artists performed folk dance forms like Chirmi (Rajasthan), Hojagiri (Tripura), Lavani and Lezim (Maharashtra) at Büyükçekmece festival.  

“Three months prior to the festival we worked rigorously on our performances for more than 12 hours. When we landed in Turkey, we realised we were competing against the best in this form. There were participants from 21 countries. I wished we had two more months for prep. There were mixed feelings because we were representing our country and it was a big responsibility. But we were also confident because we were going to present different styles. We got noticed because of it. Also, it turned out to be an enriching experience because we were interacting with teams from different nations,” says she. 

Sagar, who runs Mumbai-based Kalanjay Dance Academy comprising 900 students, has represented India at various other international folk dance festivals held in Italy, Austria, Turkey, Greece, Germany, Bulgaria and Czech Republic. 

Coming to what should be done to increase folk dances’ popularity, the artist says, “I respect all other dance forms like jazz and hip hop but India has so much to offer. Folk dances are equally difficult to learn, and require the same amount of skills. They can also be exhibited on bigger platforms across the world. If I can create awareness about our dances on social media, I will be a very happy person.”  

Traditional dance forms are moving towards fusion, to make them contemporary. But is that the way forward for folk dances as well? Sagar, who holds a Master’s degree in Indian Folk Dance, replies, “You can modify your dance a little for presentation, but while participating in a festival like Büyükçekmece, I had to keep the dance form as authentic as possible. When you are competing, authenticity is a must. You can incorporate fusion when you are teaching.”
 

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