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Rabindra Utsav: Where the mind is without fear
- Latha Sambamurti
Photos of day 2: Sandip Debnath

May 19, 2023

Sadhana, a Greater Seattle area based non-profit organization, primarily focused on impacting communities through art, organized a two-day 'Rabindra Utsav, where the mind is without fear,' a first-of-its-kind festival, in collaboration with a non-profit organization 'Voice of Planet' and with great support from Bellevue Art Commission, a partial micro-grant support from Redmond Art & Culture Commission, and Renton Municipal Art Commission.

This festival brought in multi-regional artistes and multi-art genres to celebrate Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore's vision and work. Day 1 on May 6 featured youth cultural exhibit, pure classical and pure regional folk dance, and live singing at Renton Civic Theatre, Renton. Day 2 on May 7 was on Celebrating Tagore, a multi-art show at International School, Bellevue.
Programs on both days featured music, theatre, dance, visual art, and recitation skits.

Rabindra Utsav - Exhibits

Rabindra Utsav - Bengal Dhunuchi nach by Dancing Silhouette
Bengal Dhunuchi nach by Dancing Silhouette

On May 6th, it was the youth festival showcasing the talent of local dance schools and youth artist groups from diverse cultures and various genres of art forms. It was well attended by the parents, families and friends. Many local dance schools participated.

The program began with Rabindra sangeet. The music was so peaceful and began the festival with a positive message from Tagore's work. Then followed Rumela Ghosh and group presenting Geetileaekhya, Jorasanko theke. One of Tagore's songs was sung in Chinese and it clearly portrayed that music is universal and has no language or any barriers or boundaries! Many local dance schools participated, and the youth enthusiastically exhibited their talents. Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Rabindranritya and Bengal dhunuchi nritya were presented by Dance Tantra, Nrityalaya Dance, Anga Kala Academy, From Within Academy, Purna Mudra, Dancing Silhouette. Educating the youth of their art, culture, traditions and heritage is a great responsibility of all cultures living away from their countries. It is very important to make the youth understand their cultures and become confident and proud of their cultural roots and to learn and imbibe other cultures where they live. Such youth form the foundation of a strong and healthy community. There were art exhibits by the students of Planet Art Academy and many individual artists.

Day 2 was a celebration of Tagore's works through various art forms by talented local artistes from diverse cultures and out-of-state award winning artistes. The program began with soulful live music. It was followed by the speech of Vasudha Sharma, founder of Voice of the Planet, who talked about the mission and vision of her organization and Sadhana founded by Piyali De. The Mayor of Bellevue who felicitated the function was honored on stage.

Rabindra Utsav - Anga Kala Kathak Academy
Anga Kala Kathak Academy

Anga Kala Kathak Academy took the stage with 'Raga Romance with Tagore.' The founder and a very talented guru and performer, Antara Datta showcased Kathak with her graceful disciples and brought in so much of joy and energy. She is an out-of-state artiste visiting from Cleveland. Antara breathes Kathak art form and that gives her life and energy. Kathak is her oxygen and she pours that energy when she performs. She excels with her expressions in her performance. The next show was by the local theater group Brischik, bringing to life the last days of Tagore in Notun Bouthan. The two actors playing the roles of Tagore and his sister-in-law Kadambari stole the hearts of the audience members. They became the roles they were doing. It was in Bengali. I couldn't understand the language but tears filled my eyes and I could understand the subject just through their emotion-packed voices, expressions and acting. The actor playing the role of Kadambari, Rumu Hashem, became the character she played and stole the show. I saw her not coming out of Kadambari even after the play was over. That showed her talent and powerful acting.

Rabindra Utsav - Arohi

Then followed Rabindra sangeet with live music groups Projonmo Bangladesh and Arohi group immersing us in joy and peace. Torongo's dance ensemble took the stage with Nriyero tale tale and enthralled audience members with their folk dances. Sadhana founder and Bharatanatyam exponent Piyali De presented Prakritim paramam, a quest for cosmos within nature, containing a valuable message to the universe. Piyali who co-organized this cultural event, trained her students of Dance Tantra, and also performed at this festival, a feat which is by no means easy. She played multiple roles to make this festival a huge success. Kudos to her hard work, enthusiasm and passion for art. We need to support such sincere artistes and their organizations as a community together to encourage them to serve the community in return.

Piyali De
Piyali De
Sanjib Bhattacharya
Sanjib Bhattacharya

Sanjib Bhattacharya, an Indian national award winning Manipuri artiste from Cleveland, mesmerized the audiences with his stunning performance along with his student from Singapore presently residing in Seattle. He selected three very different pieces of Manipuri dance, live pung cholom (traditional drumming used in Manipuri dance) and a fusion of Manipuri and contemporary dance. A king of his art form, a beautiful artiste inside out, he is very open minded and such a delight on the stage playing various roles and entering the hearts of the audience through his movements. When he finished his performance, he left everyone in a state of supreme tranquility.

The show ended with Beats of Redmond presenting Dhol Tasha Pathak. They were very good in bringing high energy and power through their live drumming. There were many drummers, women, men, kids, elderly and all age groups and genders. They made many get up and dance.

Rabindra Utsav

I felt that it may have been more impactful for the evening's show to end with Manipuri dance, leaving the audiences to experience the peace that was created through the festival. As well, it may have been more impactful if the festival had begun with Beats of Redmond, a percussion ensemble which is very suitable for outdoor settings. Beats of Redmond could have performed outside the theater near the entrance as a welcoming performance, creating high energy for the festival to follow.

There were beautiful artworks of various visual artists in the corridor. There were vendors selling clothes and jewelry from various states of India. There were snacks and tea available for purchase. It was a very well organized festival. The enthusiasm and passion for arts reflected throughout the festival. Hats off to the organizers for putting together a successful cultural festival for the community. I hope that more people attend such events. Support from the community to such organizations which strive to bring such wonderful events is essential and vital. I hope that this festival of Tagore grows bigger over the years and becomes an iconic festival of the Nobel laureate Tagore in Seattle.

Latha Sambamurti
Latha Sambamurti is Arts and Culture Commissioner and Producer and Director of Arts & Cultural Festivals, Washington State.

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