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A veritable kaleidoscope

ROMESH CHANDER

Bal Sangram, a new annual initiative started by National School of Drama in New Delhi, is a good mela, both for children and adults.



TIME-HONOURED Bal Sangam is a new promise of folk festival of traditional art form.

Since the last five years, the Theatre-in-Education wing of National School of Drama has started a new annual event, Bal Sangam, a folk festival of traditional art forms being presented by children from different regions of the country. This year, Bal Sangam brought together 150 children from 13regions who presented folk forms like dance, music, puppet shows and aerobics. Also, the children had the opportunity of seeing master craftsmen working with clay, block printing and tie and dye etc.

From Manipur came some of their famous dance forms like the RassLeela Lai Haraoba and of course, the Bihu from Assam.

From dance to poetry

Also, moving from Manipur to Kashmir was a long hop from dance to poetry sung on different occasions. Then there was "Bhand Pather", a theatre form that combines in itself a story laced with dance, music, humour and satire. What we saw of it was beautiful but to appreciate its beauty, one must see it for some length of time and not just a few minutes.

Different dances from Karnataka like the Step Dance, Pyramid Dance, Umbrella Dance, Stick Dance and Flower Bunch Dance were some of the most popular items both for children and adults and often the people had to be goaded to move on to make space for others.

Martial arts from Bundelkhand, particularly the one with sticks and iron rods and wrestling were indeed the favourites of most children who just wouldn't move from the performance area.

Some of the dance numbers from West Bengal like the War Dance, Dhabi (shields) or Ranpa in which the dancers balance themselves on long bamboo sticks and dance to drum beats, were yet another great attraction.

The children of Langa Community from West Rajasthan with their Sarangi, the Algoza, the Morchang and the Khartal were a delight to watch. The martial art, Kalaripayattu of Kerala in different forms was yet another number in the marital arts category using sticks and spears that held the teenagers spellbound and so did the unarmed fighting techniques.

In our journey through hills and valleys, deserts and plains with different features, we paused a while to say hello to a well-known family of Langas, the puppeteers from Rajasthan who are now settled in Shadipur in East Delhi. One of the masters of the art was teaching some children the craft of dressing a puppet and a few yards away, yet another master craftsman was teaching his grandson how to manipulate the strings. Some of the children in the audience also wanted to learn and the entertainer was only two glad to help. Bal Sangam is a good mela, both for children and adults, but what is its place in Theatre-in-Education needs to discussed seriously.

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