CALMES: Humanitarian projects supported by Indian dance

Special Photo. Indian dances originating 3,000 years ago will be presented Saturday at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.

Special Photo. Indian dances originating 3,000 years ago will be presented Saturday at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.

Beautiful traditional dances that have taken 3,000 years to perfect will be presented by AID India as a fundraiser for this nonprofit organization Saturday. The event will be held at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center and will begin at 6 p.m.

The presenter of this evening of traditional Indian dance is The Association for India's Development, a nonprofit, volunteer organization supporting development activities at the grassroots level. AID is dedicated to participating in equitable and just social, economic and environmental development in India. Starting with the dream of students in the U.S. in 1991, it has grown from the dream of a few to the vision of many, including students and professionals. The AID family has 42 chapters in the U.S., a chapter each in the U.K., Australia and Germany, seven chapters in India and more than 500 active volunteers.

The dances presented during the evening's performance include four traditional forms. This event is very special in that, according to spokesperson Mayank Mishra, these four forms are rarely seen on stage in one performance.

"Most professional Indian classical dance performances in auditoriums conform to one dance form only for the entire performance," he said.

The forms being presented are North Indian Classical Dance, or Kathak; East Indian Classical Dance, or Odissi; and two South Indian forms of Classical dance, Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi. The dances will be performed by four teachers with an additional six or seven students per teacher. They are described as "a beautiful garland of dance forms strung together by abhinaya (the art of expression) and bhakti (devotion). Audiences are urged to feast their senses on the enchanting Odissi and Kathak, the chaste Bharatnatyam and the elegant Kuchipudi. Dancers will include Sasikala Penumarthi (Kuchipudi), Kumud Savla and Samta Savla (Kathak), Padmaja Kelam, Uma Pulendran and Siddharth Kelam (Bharatnatyam) and Sangita Rangala (Odissi)."

The dances are also more than simply movement.

"Anyone not familiar with Indian dance should expect dance to be used as a medium of storytelling," Mishra said.

In addition, the costumes are brilliant and colorful, and the music is exciting. The music composed for this event is a unique synthesis of North and South Indian music.

This fundraiser is an important event for AID. Funds will go toward projects in India that will support people in need. Projects include the social enablement of women and children, economic empowerment activities in rural villages and education of young children whose parents either cannot or will not commit to their education.

Tickets for the event range from $25 to $100, and they will be available on the day of the performance at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center. Student and child discounts are available. Tickets can also be ordered in advance by calling 404-914-1627 or 404-273-4139.

For more information about this event and about the AID nonprofit organization, visit atlanta.aidindia.org or call 770-490-5096.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.