Sunny crowds flanking the Main Stage on Leonard Street enjoyed colorful Indian dancing and classical music at the first-ever Belmont Pan-Asian Coalition Dance Fest at Town Day on May 21.
The String Beans ensemble kicked off the festivities, with Daphne Lee (violin), Joshua Lee (cello), Jack Stevens (viola) and Sarah Xu (keyboard) performing renditions of a Taiwanese folk song, the theme song for “Curse of the Golden Flower” and “Let it Go” from “Frozen”.
The first dance, hosted by Sripriya Narasimhan, featured students dressed in pink and gold from the Samskriti dance school performing in the Bharatanatyam style of classical Indian dance. Sumedha Giridharan, Samyukta Rajaram, Sharmada Rajaram, Sara Raturi, Meenakshi Senthil and Aradhya Siva used detailed face and hand gestures and bent knee movements. Widespread in southern India, Bharatanatyam is the oldest style of classical Indian dance, originating in Tamil Nadu.
Next is another classical Indian dance form called Kathak, featuring choreographer and dance teacher Mona Mitra, as well as Misha Bhandari, Mala Chaurasia, Swanandi Pote and Nitika Shorey from Mona’s Dance Academy. A classical dance of northern India, kathak is traditionally attributed to ancient traveling bards and conveyed clear narrative elements with graceful expressions and hand positions, as well as bells, pirouettes and intricate footwork.
Aashi Benegal and Saina Likhi broke up the classical dances with a peppy, heel-tapping Bollywood number, choreographed by Dipali Trivedi, which had the crowd roaring and cheering. Bollywood, popularized in Indian films, synthesizes dance forms from various parts of India.
The event ended with another Kathak dance which Urmi Samadar choreographed for her students, Anahata Davuluri, Aanya Jain, Srishti Kar, Tanvi Mathura, Anusha Ramakrishnan, Rhia Sharma and Hiya Singh. The dancers wore long, colorful skirts with a gauzy overlay that fluttered as they turned. As part of the celebration of the Hindu holiday, Holi, dancers playfully tossed clouds of pink and yellow powder at each other and into the air.
Many volunteers, in addition to those mentioned above, contributed valuable time and expertise to the event, including Laura Germine, Sue Ko Walsh, Meenal Bagla, Priya Licht, Shana Wang, Gang Zhao, Hannah Shin, Ye Pogue, Sonia Kumar, Fran Yuan, Hannah Lee and Kai Saukkonen.
BPAC Dance Fest was sponsored by Belmont Against Racism, TN Beauty Salon, Lord’s Cleaners, Wan Educational Consulting and Cambridge Children’s Dentistry.
A non-profit corporation, the Belmont Pan-Asian Coalition was founded in 2021 by a diverse group of Asian-American Belmontonians to champion and amplify the voices of Belmont’s Asian community. For more information, visit BelmontPAC.org or email [email protected] Tax-deductible donations are accepted on the BPAC website or can be mailed to Belmont Pan-Asian Coalition, 66 Hillside Terrace, Belmont, MA.