Darpana: A Centre for Performing Arts that Nurture Thought and Transformation
“The arts are one of the most persuasive languages that we have. In traditional societies, arts were the core of life, the way rites of passage were created and the way people connected with future generations. The arts are the common strength and common language that can connect us. We need to bring the arts to centre-stage once again”, says Padma Bhushan Dr. Mallika Sarabhai, activist, classical dancer, and Honorary Director, Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, a prominent private performing arts organisation that has been presenting a spectrum of artistic and engaging performances for seven decades.
Darpana Academy of Performing Arts was founded in 1949, by Mallika’s parents Vikram Sarabhai (1919-1971), an eminent physicist and astronomer who initiated space research in India, and Mrinalini Sarabhai (1918- 2016) a renowned Indian classical dancer, choreographer and instructor, with an aim to teach Indian performing arts and to spread Indian art through performance.
Over the decades, Darpana expanded its scope by adding to the courses offered and in using art for creating awareness of social issues (from public health to women’s empowerment, human rights, communal harmony, good governance) and to bring about social change. Today Darpana creates, disseminates, teaches and researches the performing arts; produces and curates performances; and creates video and internet content.
The academy offers courses in Indian classical and folk dance, drama, vocal and instrumental music, puppetry, Kalari (the traditional martial arts form of the state of Kerala) and yoga, as well as workshops on different subjects related to the performing arts. There is a library with an extensive collection of publications related to these subjects.
Residents of Ahmedabad and visitors to the city visit Darpana to take in the organic ambience of its exposed concrete and exposed brick architecture set amidst greenery; enjoy a light meal at the café; and watch classical or contemporary performances at the lovely state-of-the-art Natarani amphitheatre. Performances by Darpana’s highly trained and multidisciplinary artists and by other troupes are held at Natarani.
“Natarani’s new avatar, necessitated by losing the old stage to the riverfront project is built on principals of sustainability, with lime plaster and recycled unfired bricks, a rain water harvesting system under the stage which is piped under the seating and drains it of heat. The outer walls are sound reducing and are a salute to the original brick walls of Ahmedabad, founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah, in the 15th century”, says Mallika.
Natarani also hosts major international festivals every year and collaborations between countries; artists of different styles; and performing artists, painters, sculptors and installation artists.
The performances of Darpana’s artistes are as aesthetic as they are thought-provoking, and draw viewers to the inherent nature of the performing arts being inspiring, sustaining, and a medium that brings people together. Find out more here
Text by Brinda Gill, Images by Satyajit Gill
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