In the last week of February, at about 6:15pm every day, the hawker center by school was overrun by color.
Decked out in spectral costumes, buried beneath stage makeup, and often barefooted, we Kahaani dancers all but inhaled plates of chicken rice and cheese fries before making a mad dash back to the Main Hall.
The rushed moments in the hawker truly brought together many of the things I have come to know and love at my time in UWC. Amidst challenging academic courses and inane extracurricular commitments, gathered there were 160 students and teachers from across the world, collaborating to raise awareness and funds for a community in need.
The show itself, for those who were not lucky enough to buy (or beg/borrow/steal) tickets, portrayed the journey of an artist, danced by Jayashree Khemka, trying to “rediscover her creative vision” and overcome a figurative ‘blindness’.
With the support of her two friends, danced by Rikhi Roy and Nikita Sundaram, the artist encounters seven colors: representing seven dances and their respective cultures. During this journey through India, the artist learns to nurture an idea and ‘see’ again. Between dances, the trio interpretively danced narration, and other students performed various forms of Indian music.
Kahaani 2016’s storyline alluded to Kolkata GC’s grassroots partner Voice of World (VOW), which works to combat the stigma faced by the visually-impaired in Kolkata, India.
“We’ve called the show ‘Kahaani’ so that we can share a ‘story’ every year. As humans we connect with stories and we thought that this would make it easier for the audience to empathize with the circumstances in which these [visually-impaired] individuals are in.” said Rikhi Roy, co-chair of Kolkata GC.
VOW provides education, healthcare and social rehabilitation to Kolkata’s special needs community. Proceeds from Kahaani 2016 went towards hiring trained educators, counsellors and therapists to staff VOW’s Pratyasha Home.
Therefore, while Kahaani significantly contributes to building community spirit and arts culture at UWC East, Kolkata GC would like to emphasize the service-based nature of the show.
“Something we would like to emphasise is that Kahaani is a fundraiser,” said Ms. Shruti Tewari, one of GC’s teacher supervisors. “For us at Kolkata GC, dancing is such an integral part of Indian culture and it showcases the wonderful things about India. Through this medium, we are able to tell stories about the challenges of being visually challenged in the world, but more specifically in India.”
“Dance is something that is intrinsic to Indian culture and is used as a medium through which stories are told. Often, dance is used in times of celebration, which is exactly what Kahaani is; a celebration of the Indian culture.” said Joyita Roy, co-chair of the GC.
From the response of participants and the audience, Kolkata GC appears successful at maintaining a primacy of service.
When asked about her highlight from the show, dancer Mehak Parwani said, “Probably when I figured out we were dancing in the color order of the rainbow. The more I think about it, it really shows layered it [the show] was.” She added, “It’s inspiring to see a project do that. They [Kolkata GC] were sincerely trying to raise awareness, rather than just run a fun event.”