JALA – The Dance of Water : culture as a tool for sustainable action

4 October 2018

On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit — officially came into force. Over the next 15 years, countries will mobilize efforts around these new universal Goals to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. As a major operational hub of the international system, Geneva brings together many actors who play a key role in implementing the SDGs, using sustainable methods and traditional knowledge to break through cultural barriers and implement ecologically sound, durable practices. Sujatha Venkatesh, Artistic Director of Omkara, School of Indian Dance, Geneva, uses dance as a tool for sustainability.
In her latest production, she uses the oldest Indian classical dance form to portray the problematic role of water in mankind’s quest for survival. Promoting the sustainable use of water, proceeds from “Jala – The Dance of Water” will go to ‘Swiss Helvetas Intercooperation’ and ‘Nanhi Kali’ which works in water infrastructure and the education of girls in India and Bangladesh.

The production will tour Switzerland in October, supported by the Permanent Mission of India (Geneva) and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). The tour will be held in collaboration with Omkara and its students and Switzerland will play host to some of India’s most accomplished dancers and musicians in a performance of one of the oldest classical dances of the subcontinent, Bharatanatyam. Perhaps the oldest classical Indian dance form, it is a style of dance that is noted for its percussive footwork, sophisticated vocabulary of hand gestures, facial expressions and eye movements. It is performed with legs bent at the knee, similar to a deep plié in ballet. Originally performed in temples, it is considered to be the corporal manifestation of the element of fire. The Shiva temple of Kanchipuram, a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, that is decorated with carvings dating back to a period between 6th to 9th centuries CE manifests the development of this dance form by around the mid first millennium CE. Many ancient Hindu temples are embellished with sculptures of Lord Shiva in Bharatanatyam dance poses.

The theme of water or ‘jala’ which is both the onomatopoeic sound of a gushing stream and the Sanskrit word for water, sets the scene for this unique production, sharing in the concerns around the misuse of water, an enthusiastic team of reputed musicians from Bengaluru, India was assembled and commissioned to compose a unique, evocative and innovative musical score. To bring ideas together coherently, a script was crafted to ensure that the music composed effectively communicates the message, delivers maximum impact and transports audiences on a journey that is both enchanting and deeply relevant.
From religion to industry to everyday life, Jala looks at how water connects us all together through cleverly conceptualized Bharatanatyam sequences choreographed by Sujatha Venkatesh, Artistic director of Omkara, School of Indian Dance and Padmini Upadhya, dancer and collaborator from Bengaluru, India.
“Jala – The Dance of Water” has been choreographed in the South Indian Classical style of Bharatanatyam interspersed with Indian folk dances and martial arts to effectively communicate the different roles water inhabits in our daily lives – be it a deity to be worshipped, a medium for transport, a tool for agriculture, or a source for healing.

’Jala - The Dance of Water’ will be performed in Geneva, Bern and Zurich in mid- October.
Geneva – 12 October – WIPO at 18.00
34, Chemin des Colombettes, 1211 Geneva

Geneva – 19 October – Cité Bleue at 18h30
46, Avenue de Miremont, 1206 Geneva

Bern – 21 October – Théâtre Am Kaefigturm at 17h00
4, Spitalgasse, 3011 Bern

Zurich – 26 October- Aula Rämibühl at 17h30
56 Rämistrasse, 8001 Zürich