This weekend workshops and show with the Rajanthani Gypsy Caravan were amazing. Not because I learned some fabulous steps I will add to my next choreography, since honestly I don't feel I know enough about Indian dance to teach or perform it. It was more the experience as a whole. There were 20+ dancers in the room. Only one of the members of the gypsy caravan spoke decent English, the others spoke little. But despite this, they were able to teach us about the instruments and how to dance. Jill Parker calls this teaching organic and it is how she leads her workshops. Very little talking or explaining, just watch and do. It can be frustrating, but at the same time, the class flows - even without the use of words. Suva Devi was able to not only instruct us, but correct and praise us. This style of teaching was also more interactive, since much of the class was done in a circle. We danced towards Suva and each other and in the process got to know some new people.
Although this lead and follow method isn't traditional in western dance forms, it is the way folk dance is taught. You learn from watching your elders dance at parties and celebrations and somewhere along the way, it seeps into your bones. It doesn't create a technically stronger dancer, but it does make you a more intuitive dancer, especially when you have live music. The heartbeat of the music is the drum, it keeps you on track. Middle eastern dance is at it's heart a folk dance that we dressed up and put on a stage. How does this apply to those of us learning these dances forms? Good technique is important but equally important is feeling the music in your core.
History of the Rajasthani people and their link to the Romany culture
Some videos about what I saw this weekend
Bhavi (Pot Balancing) - unfortunately the video doesn't include her balancing on glasses or knives
Tera Tali - a seated dance where the dancer plays cymbals both on her hands and by striking one or more of the 13 cymbals fastened to her body
Kalebai - performed by members of the snake charmer tribes. Look at the flute on the far right - it is a pongi, traditional played by snake charmers
Suva Devi's dance scene from Latcho Drom (her dancing and spinning starts at about 6:30)
And a closer view of the musicians, the guy on the right is playing a mouth harp. The one in back is playing kartals - flat pieces of wood that are tapped together like castanets. However, they are not attached to his hands!