484. A Report with Videos of South Asia at the ROM 2014

Ruth writes:
At the Royal Ontario Museum this past weekend, I found the South Asian Heritage Days especially fun, but for unexpected reasons. The performing arts on the Main Stage were very good as usual. I especially liked Bhavajan Kumar, a 22-year old Toronto-born Bharatanatyam dancer who is currently studying this classical temple dance form in India. You can see a sample of his talent in the video below as he portrays Lord Shiva.

Bhavajan Kumar. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Bhavajan Kumar. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

I loved Anusha Sharma of Tamil heritage who sings Carnatic and Hindustani songs. It’s thrilling and amazing that she too was born in Canada and yet she is so good at classical Indian music. See the second video below.

Anusha Sharma. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Anusha Sharma. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Also wonderful were the SG Expressions, whose five women dancers – most Canadian born – looked beautiful in their gold and beige costumes and temple jewellery. On stage, their eyes rolled expressively, and their heads swiveled from side to side properly. How wonderful that Toronto can develop such skilled people.

SG Expressions. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

SG Expressions. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

The Afghan folk dancers were fun. They were young and probably all Canadian born, and showed the audience how one finds a mate within the tamped-earthen walls of an Afghan village — except that the costumes were of different regions — which added to the colour.

 

Afghani Youth. Attan dance (national dance of Afghanistan). Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy.

Afghani Youth. Attan dance (national dance of Afghanistan). Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy.

There were more excellent performances. Below is also a link to the tabla and sitar duo Anita Katakkar and Rex Van der Spuy. Their flying fingers brought back memories of Ravi Shankar as their playing reached greater and greater speed and climaxes.

Anita Katakkar and Rex Van der Spuy, tabla and sitar. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Anita Katakkar and Rex Van der Spuy, tabla and sitar. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

However, the most exciting part for me was the opportunity to meet and talk with some of these artists, as they waited in full costume for their performances on stage. I met Bhavajan Kumar and some of the SG Expressions in the ROMs basement as they relaxed between sets. The women said it took two hours to get dressed and made up. They knew when they were four years old that they wanted to be dancers. Sujatha Ganesh taught them Kerala’s Mohiniyattorn dance. She also danced with them that day.

SG Expressions dancers.  Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

SG Expressions dancers. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Bhavajan, a former Ryerson student, said he was only given five minutes on stage. After seeing him there, I wanted much more. Alas, today was his only performance in Toronto and he has no current plans to return here. He said he would be performing at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival in July. Lucky San Francisco.

Bhavajan Kumar, Bharatanatyam dancer and mother. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Bhavajan Kumar, Bharatanatyam dancer and mother. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

There were also many amusing exhibits on Level Two of the ROM near the dinosaurs. Here women could learn how to tie a saree. I was surprised when Ayesha Khan, who looked South Asian said she had never worn a saree. She was from Kashmir where they wear tunics and trousers. I should have remembered.

Ayesha Khan trying on a saree. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Ayesha Khan trying on a saree. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

There I also found lively Deepti Batra giving lessons on the spices of South Asia and giving away samples. She said spices shouldn’t be kept more than six months if refrigerated and one month if not. She talked about a mix of spices that would help one lose weight.

Deepti Batra. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Deepti Batra. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

She gave smell tests of spices to many people. Khursheed Ahmed identified five correctly but missed out on fenugreek.

Khursheed Ahmed. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Khursheed Ahmed. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

At the Tibet Gallery booth, J.C. Nawang tried to teach me how to keep a singing bell ringing and ringing and ringing. You hit the rim with a padded stick, and then rub it with the stick. The sound is soothing and conducive to meditation, he said. But I couldn’t keep it going.

J.C. Nawang, Tibet Gallery. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

J.C. Nawang, Tibet Gallery. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

And what fun to see volunteer Vita from Hong Kong, one of  the many volunteers at the event, try on a turban from TieMyTurban.com. All he needed was a beard to look authentic.

Volunteer Vita. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Volunteer Vita. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

I’m always fascinated by how quickly and skillfully people can apply intricate henna designs free hand onto eager young ladies. And I love the way some women tie their head scarves.

Henna. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Henna. Copyright ©2014 Ruth Lor Malloy

Last of all, as we left the event, volunteers handed out free nan bread and spices from a couple of South Asian food companies selling in Toronto. I received spice mixes for butter chicken and biryani from National, and naan from Santosh. Santosh gave out recipes for Salsa and Cheese Roti Quesadilla, and Burrito Roti Roll Up – what? no poutine!  A representative from National Foods said the spice mixes should last for two years, but I expect to try them out long before then.

Hellenic Heritage Day at the ROM will be Saturday, October 25, 2014 with a full day of live Greek music and dance performances, shopping, dining and more! I’m looking forward to that one too.

Videos:

Bhavajan Kumar Bharatanatyam Dancer: http://youtu.be/ablFBm2ubAE
Anusha Sharma: http://youtu.be/1xckezJCbk0
SG Expressions and Mohiniyattorn dance from South India: http://youtu.be/_23bJckcoAc
Anita Katakkar and Rex Van der Spuy: http://youtu.be/qayOsCAE2gw

 

4 Comments

  1. Thank you Ruth. It was indeed a pleasure meeting you.
    I am totally inspired by your enthusiasm to cover multicultural stories across GTA.
    Looking forward to read more about exciting events that you cover at this online-platform.
    Love and regards
    Deepti Batra

    1. Please let us know where and when you will be appearing in Toronto again with your South Asian spices. All the best, Ruth.

  2. Hi Ruth,

    I just came across this article through a friend. Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed my performance and I look forward to reading more about your multicultural experiences. 🙂

    Regards, Anusha Sharma

  3. Dear Ruth,

    Thanks for this great overview of RUNG Festival 2014. I look forward to creating more events where artists and performers have the opportunity to showcase and share traditions with diverse communities in Canada.

    Please send me your contact details and I would like to keep you informed about more such events in the coming months.
    Regards,

    Farah Shams
    Artistic Director
    RUNG Festival

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