The annual Rasa Festival is a unique India-themed multi-arts festival in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, produced by our multi-arts organization, Akshara which I co-founded a few years ago. Now in its second year, I conceived of and started this festival in 2017 as an exciting month-long celebration of the arts in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas. The Rasa Festival features the arts, from and inspired by the rich cultural heritage of India. Partnering with local arts organizations, it presents several unique and exciting, traditional and innovative programs in performing, visual, literary, films, wellness, and culinary arts.
I feel that more than ever before, it is important for our communities to discover, appreciate, and embrace the richness of cultural diversity, and for us to open ourselves to influences from all over the world. The arts offer a beautiful window to experience and rejoice in the richness of cultures, both far and near.
On Friday, October 5 and Saturday, October 6, the Rasa Festival will conclude the 2018 programming with a grand performing arts event at Washtenaw Community College's Towsley Auditorium in Ypsilanti. This year’s performing arts offering is exciting because it includes dance, music, and theater. In curating the two-day program, I wanted to bring a range of art forms and artists from India and other parts of the US as well as from Michigan.
With this prayer, the dance begins:
Angikam bhuvanam yasya Vachikam sarva vangmayam Aharyam chandra taradi Tam numah satvikam sivam.
-- "We bow to the Sathvikam (pure) Shiva whose Aangikam (body) is the world, whose Vaachikam (speech) is the Universal Language and whose Aaharyam (ornaments) are the moon and the stars."
As powerful drumbeats create primal, pulsating energy, Shiva Nataraja, the Hindu God of Dance, comes to life. This dance of Shiva symbolizes the wondrous interplay of dynamic and static energies, symbolizing the five cosmic functions of creation, preservation, destruction, illusion, and emancipation.
When we at Akshara decided to produce the India-inspired, month-long, multi-arts Rasa Festival, a classical dance segment was planned as a key event because it occupies a pre-eminent position in the arts landscape of India. Rasa Dance Festival runs September 23 and 24 at Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti. (As a prelude to the festival, we will present a performance at the Ann Arbor District Library on September 21.)