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Louisville festival showcases classical Indian performing art

The Geeva Arts Festival has become a regional event to see and experience Indian classical performance art.
Ayush Das
Ayush Das Stills & Motion Picture Photography
The Geeva Arts Festival has become a regional event to see and experience Indian classical performance art. Suprita Trilok (pictured) is one of the many artists performing at the festival.

For the past 13 years, the Geeva Arts Festival has been a space for attendees to see classic styles of Indian dance on stage.

When Guru Smt. Akila Iyer founded the Geeva Arts Festival, she wanted to create a space where people from in and outside of Louisville’s Indian community can come to enjoy classical performance art from South Asia.

“We started it to of course enhance our Louisville community, which is so rich and so welcoming to all of the Indian immigrants that have settled here for the past 40, 50 years now,” festival co-director Shyama Iyer said.

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

The festival, put on by the Guru Vandana Arts Academy, has become a regional event for Indian Classical art. “If you're in the Midwest, [you don’t] come by that often,” Iyer said. “So we want to bring that to the community here to experience things from outside their region outside the country, outside this hemisphere, and to let that inspire them artistically.”

The theme for this year’s festival is duality, organizers are calling it ART IN2. Iyer said the theme can be interpreted in multiple ways.

“It can mean togetherness, it can mean a division, and it can mean just different,” Iyer said. “It's something that each artist was encouraged to think about and use in whatever way they wanted.”

Duo Seema Viswanath and Shuchita Sakwaya will be performing a Kathak piece that combines two pieces of Indian epics: Draupadi from the Mahabharata, and Sita from the Ramayana.

“We thought [about] what would it be [like] if they meet and because in the epic they've never met these are two different central characters of two different epics,” Sakwaya said.

Viswanath said an additional layer of duality in the performance comes from looking at how society will revere women while simultaneously mistreating them.

“We all praise Mother Earth as you know mother, or Lady and the goddesses… Shakti like we gain everything from her, but how do we treat her in a real context?” Viswanath said.

The plights and misunderstanding of women is a theme that also appears in another performance.

Kuchipudi performer Madhuvanthi Sundararajan is doing an original work adapted from the Greek myth of Medusa and her journey from devout priestess to gorgon.

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

The Geeva Arts Festival is July 12 through July 14. It’s a Cultural Pass event, anyone with one will have free admission to the festival.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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