By Elaine Omann

In conjunction with the 2017 Jax Reads!/NEA Big Read event in February and March featuring the book “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri, many branches of the Jacksonville Public Library hosted complementary cultural events. At the Southeast Regional Library on Saturday, March 4, dancers from Renuka’s Indian Danz Academy presented a variety of dances from India.

The community was invited to participate and those who were in the library at the time of the event gathered in one of the community rooms, which had been prepared for the music, dance and guests.

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After an introduction and welcome from the library staff, Swarupa Koka, the hostess for the performance introduced the book to the audience. “The Namesake” (2003) is the first novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. Originally published in “The New Yorker,” it was later expanded to a full-length novel. It explores many of the same emotional and cultural themes as the author’s Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection “Interpreter of Maladies.” Moving between events in Calcutta, Boston, and New York City, the novel examines the nuances involved with being caught between two conflicting cultures with highly distinct religious, social, and ideological differences.

She then introduced the dance school and information supporting the authenticity and background of the dances. The selection showcased some of the different styles of Indian dancing. After relocating to the United States in the year 2007, the school founders started to perform and teach Indian classical dance, “Bharathnatyam,” and bollywood dancing.

Three young girls from the area were the first performers to enter the room, beautifully dressed for the performance. They were artistic in their presentation and showcased dances in their colorful and unique attire. These young girls were poised and showed talent and skill in performing their movements as they danced together and solo. Family members were in the audience to support them and photograph their dances.

“Ankitha, Prapti and Anushka performed a semi-classical dance on the song ‘Alaipayuthey kanna,’ which recites about the lovely flute rhythms played by Lord Krishna,” said Koka.

Another group of women in bright turquoise and black performed. One dance included multicolored ribbons twirled in each hand that provided a beautiful addition to the dance steps. Traditional and modern bhangra as well as solo dances were also performed.

The audience warmly applauded for the performances and the event concluded with refreshments. Copies of “The Namesake” were available for check out.

A final activity for the city event was held at the Main Library on March 11, when Mira Nair, the director of the film “The Namesake” discussed the craft of filmmaking as well as the issues brought up in the book — such as how film can challenge stereotypes and generational assumptions.

Photo by Elaine Omann

Ankitha, Prapti and Anushka performing semi-classical dance.


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