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Bageshree Vaze on the Maharaja Exhibition

January 23rd, 2011

Bageshree Vaze has performed kathak dance, accompanied by her husband Vineet Vyas on tabla, numerous times during the Maharaja exhibition. She shares her thoughts with Jim Shedden, Project Manager of Publications and Special Projects at the AGO.

Performing in the exhibition has been a unique experience for me my husband and me. That’s partly because it’s a museum, of course, but mainly because there’s been an attempt to recreate the experience of performing in the maharaja era, when musicians and dancers were invited to showcase their latest work in the courts.

The audiences have been very interested in the history of the culture. They’re curious and engaged. Indian culture is so vast and diverse that, in our experience, even people of south Asian descent may not know much about Indian classical music and dance. It was never part of the mainstream culture, nor is it today. On the other hand, the transmission of knowledge is so much more fluid these days with the internet that we’re encountering some audience members with a casual knowledge of kathak dance and Indian percussion traditions.

Children respond very well to what we’re doing. Percussion alone usually captivates children, but the dance is also so visual that it’s hard not to be fascinated with it. We love talking to children of all backgrounds because we’re immersed in South Asian culture, but we were born and raised in Canada like so many of the visitors, so we can make connections, bridging the cultures.

Inevitably we’re asked about politics. There’s no getting around it: kathak developed in the context of violent warfare and, today, it reflects of a blend of Hindu and Muslim traditions. What makes it of primary interest today however, is the art, the beauty, of the music, dance and costume. Like all art, it ultimately transcends politics.”

Bageshree Vaze is giving dance demonstrations during Maharaja: the Splendour of India’s Royal Courts. For a detailed schedule of performances, see here.