Regatta of dance
- Ashish Mohan Khokar, Bangalore
Photos courtesy: Jayalekshmi

November 4, 2009 

Much after Onam boat races and regattas got over, Guru Girija Chandran put up her annual REGATTA Festival, featuring over 500 students in 8 days! To manage so many, so well, on a little ramshackle though transformed stage was not a mean feat but then this guru of gurus of Trivandrum, is fast emerging as one point stop for learning various Kerala forms, including fusion.

Girija Chandran and her family of five brothers, with their spouses and sisters and all have made Regatta into a truly active cultural centre. It is also a travel company, making logistics easy.  That helped when so many of us, descended from all over: The Dhananjayans and Guru N S Jayalakshmi from Madras, oops, Chennai; Yours truly from Bangalore; artistes from Palghat, Mysore, Mangalore, Hyderabad. Societies like Regatta are doing work of Zonal Cultural Centres.
What is most inspiring is to see tiny tots learning dance and doing it with joy. All through the festival, while their talents helped showcase their stage worthiness, it also brought joy not only to their parents and friends but this critic to see what beauty lay in innocence of under-5 or under-7 year old dancing beauties with broken milk tooth, smiling away to glory! In folk numbers they did, they belonged to the theme, so involved were they.
The seniors did not shy from showing their talents either. Ahead of the pack is Guru Girija's own daughter Madhavi, all of 18 and next star in the making. Her Mohiniattam sits well on her petite frame and even in the fusion item she choreographed using Kuchipudi and pack of few boys, set to Navnit Varma's racy music, showed this girl will go far. Leena, Methil Devika and Poornima were some other dancers who showed merit.

Regatta Dance Festival is a major event in Trivandrum's calendar and although it becomes a supply route to youth festivals and college and job market later, at least it is making locals learn dance and do it well. The best part of the festival was the even level of training imparted to all. Nearly 95% of all presented showed standardised training and professionalism. That itself is a major achievement for any guru or an institution. But then, this is God's Own Country!

Reputed scholar-historian Ashish Mohan Khokar takes notes of special events, occasionally.