Louisville Festival Presents Classical Indian Performing Arts
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Louisville Festival Presents Classical Indian Performing Arts

When Guru Smt. Akila Iyer founded Geeva Arts Festival, she wanted to create a space where people from within and outside of Louisville’s Indian community could come and enjoy classical South Asian performing arts.

“We started doing this to obviously enrich our Louisville community, which is so rich and so welcoming to all the Indian immigrants who have settled here over the last 40, 50 years,” said festival co-director Shyama Iyer.

The types of performances span the Indian subcontinent. There are eight classical Indian dance styles. Each has its own unique movements and storytelling styles. The festival includes dance styles of Bharathanatyam, Bharata-Nrityam, Kathak and Kuchipudi.

The festival, organized by Guru Vandana Arts Academy, has become a regional event for Indian classical art. “If you’re in the Midwest, (you) don’t come here as often,” Iyer said. “So we want to bring it to the community here, so they can experience things outside their region, outside their country, outside this hemisphere, and be inspired artistically.”

The theme of this year’s festival is duality, which organizers have dubbed ART IN2. Iyer said the theme can be interpreted in many ways.

“It could mean unity, it could mean division, or it could just mean different,” Iyer said. “It’s something that every artist was encouraged to think about and use in any way they wanted.”

The duo Seema Viswanath and Shuchita Sakwaya will perform a kathak piece that combines fragments of two Indian epics: Draupadi from the Mahabharata and Sita from the Ramayana.

“We wondered what it would be like if they met. And since they never met in the epic, they are two different main characters of two different epics,” Sakwaya said.

Viswanath added that an additional level of duality in the show comes from observing how society reveres women while also mistreating them.

“We all praise Mother Earth, as you know, the mother, or the Lady and the goddesses… Shakti, as if we have received everything from her, but how do we take her in her true context?” said Viswanath.

Women’s problems and the misunderstanding of their existence are a theme that also appears in another performance.

Kuchipudi artist Madhuvanthi Sundararajan creates an original work that adapts the Greek myth of Medusa and her transformation from a pious priestess into a Gorgon.

“My goal with this piece is to show how different aspects or different elements and factors can affect one person and cause them to change from who they are to who they don’t want to become,” Sundararajan said.

The Geeva Art Festival will take place from July 12 to 14. It is an event organized on the basis of a cultural pass, so every person who has a pass entitles them to free entry to the festival.