A ONE-WOMAN dance drama will premiere at the Port Elizabeth Opera House next weekend before travelling to East London and then Mauritius to highlight the life of an Indian “temple” dancer.
Stageworld Theatre School graduate Aarti Narotam had scripted, directed, produced Devadasi, in which she acts, sings and performs Indian classical and contemporary dance. It may sound like a tall order for one person, but Narotam, 26, believes passionately in her art.
“It is set in India but the dialogue is in English, giving the audience a glimpse into the life of a devadasi, a girl ‘married’ off to the temples by families who could not afford to look after them,” said Narotam.
They maintained and cleaned the temples and in their spare time danced in praise of various deities, said Narotam, adding that this was the birthplace of many Indian classical dance styles.
“During the late 1800s when the British invaded India, they confined many of these girls to brothels where they were forced into prostitution and lived the rest of their day’s outcast from society and known as ‘untouchables’.”
There are still devadasis in India, says Narotam, although more prevalent in rural areas.
“They are kept hidden from the more modern cities and governments as their sole purpose nowadays has become prostitution.
“Many people think that Indian dance is all about glitz and glamour just as most modern artists portray it. We are quick to be dazzled by the beautiful costumes and jewellery, but it is to these poor girls that we owe the very existence of Indian classical dance. I think it is time this story was told.”
Although the gritty subject matter is a serious subject, in Devadasi, the character Deva resorts to the comedic side of her personality which brings light to her hard and unpleasant life. “She is not cynical and has kept her faith through her hardships, which makes her story so heartfelt and real,” said Narotam, inviting her audience next week to “experience a slice of the life” of a devadasi. “Maybe this will help us appreciate the simple freedoms which every human being should have by right.”
Stageworld Theatre School principal Marlene Pieterse recommended the production saying it was “such a powerful look at the life of these young ladies and the Indian culture”.
“Being informed prevents misconceptions,” said Pieterse. The dance will be staged at the Barn at the Opera House next week on Friday April 12 at 7pm, and on Saturday April 13, at 6pm.
- Tickets R50 through Mahesh 082-556-9847 or Rekha 082-788-2012.