Sharon Wezer founded the Indian Dance Europe in Netherlands to network with other oganisations in Europe to promote India dance. She started learning ballet and contemporary dance as a child, like most people in Netherlands, and then came across Indian dance.
When she had to make a choice about what she would pursue, she says the “richness, the depth and content” of Indian dance attracted her as opposed to other dances which are more about form only.
She works on the Indian Dance Festival in the Netherlands which earlier started out as the Holland India festival and included music, cinema and dance. Now cinema has been incorporated into the Film House Cinema in the Hague.
Extreme right - Sharon Wezer
Sharon says that while presenting culture related dance forms that have very strong contexts to new audiences, she juxtaposes the classical form in its traditional context with more contemporary productions.
“This has created a national platform to showcase Indian dance more. It has been there for eight years and for the last edition there were nearly 5500 people and the audiences keep getting more diverse. In the beginning it was attended by the Indian diaspora mostly as they are familiar with the form and reside mostly in The Hague where this festival takes place,” says Sharon.
In this interview with CSP, Sharon Wezer speaks about Indian dance in Europe.
How is Indian dance and music received and appreciated in Europe?
Indian dance, both classical and non-classical, is mostly practiced by Indians or people from the Indian diaspora (most of whom come from Suriname). In addition there is a trend of young dancers who are trained in other forms (contemporary dance, hiphop) that include the themes and content of Indian arts and culture in their dance styles. Most of these dancers have an Indian background. Most of the international artists performing here are from India. There are also some artists from Malaysia and Singapore.
What forms of Indian dance attract you? Are you learning them yourself?
I am very much interested in various classical dances, because they are highly developed and give technical tools. After learning several dance styles such as ballet, jazz dance and hiphop I discovered Bharatanatyam and fully focused on that.
I got my early training from a local teacher Aartie Jagmohan. She and her mother learned from an Indian teacher called Rajamani Mohan who was based in the Netherlands and taught quite a few people here. Nowadays I continue my training in India and learn mostly in Bangalore and Chennai.
How can Indian representation in theatres be increased?
With larger theatres, the inclusion for Indian dance depends very much of who happens to be in charge at a particular moment and there is no stable representation. Therefore, grass roots organisations and local Indian dance schools need to be empowered to provide commitment and growth that is continuous. The Indian dance community also has an expertise role towards theatres and can provide information and education. India can help in promoting Indian dance by establishing durable relationship with these local grass roots organisations and dance schools, because they will always carry it forward.
What are the other aspects of India you have learnt apart from aesthetics from Indian dance?
From a young age I’ve been interested in arts and various dance forms. Being a dancer, naturally the physical aspect of Bharatanatyam is what appealed to me first and the rhythmic development of the form interested me very much. As I started training more, I realised that I was growing not only a dancer, but also as a human being. It turned out to be a gateway for me to yoga, mathematics, Indian culture and history for me especially philosophy.
What was your earliest exposure to Indian Art?
Indian music was the first introduction. Many people in The Netherlands are from Suriname, which is a melting pot of cultures, including Indian. So most people would be familiar with music by, for example, Lata Mangeshkar. When I was in my teens, my city of Rotterdam organised a world music theatre festival where I saw Indian theatre. Other than that, there was hardly any performing arts available. So when I discovered Indian Classical dance it required an active approach from my part to learn and search for information.