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Traditional Indian dance to grace 2017 Diwali festivals

One of India’s most exciting folk dance traditions will grace the stage at the 2017 Diwali Festival of Lights.

A woman dancing Lavani

Lavani is a folk dance form from Maharashtra State of India performed to the beat of the dholki – a hand drum. The term Lavani comes from the word lavanya, meaning beauty.

Come October, Kalika Kala Kendra, a well-known Lavani dance company from Ahmednagar, India will perform at the Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin Diwali celebrations in New Zealand.

Kalika Kala Kendra was founded by renowned Marathi film star and social activist Rajashree Nagarkar who has played a key role in reviving the art form and also empowering the Lavani artists from her nomadic community. Rajashree herself has been dancing since she was seven, and went on stage from the age of 14.

Lavani dancers combine body movements, striking expressions and upbeat songs to perform on themes of love, religion and socio-political situations. While the beginnings of Lavani date back to the 1560s, it was not until the 1700s that it came into prominence when it gained royal patronage.

The dancers wear nine-metre long saris called ‘Nauvari’ and beautiful jewellery. They wear ghungroos or ankle bells which help accentuate their footwork and rhythm – these can weigh up to 10-15 kilos.  

In recent years the lavani artform has inspired the choreography of many popular Bollywood movies.

Video: last year's Diwali performers visit Wellington's Newtown School

The Kalika Kala Kendra dance group from Maharashtra State is visiting New Zealand courtesy of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the High Commission of India and Air New Zealand.

12 september 2017