Event Review: Compassionate Chefs Benefit at New Delhi Restaurant

The Lovely Ladies in Disco Dupattas
Photo from Shab Sigman
Two more successful performances this past weekend!  On Saturday afternoon we were on at the Freight & Salvage.  Jared, Manisha, and Meagan came to see Andrea, Emily, Shab and I perform.  Bright lights, lovely stage, and a warm carpet (bhangra on carpet is definitely warmer than dancing on wood, though not nearly as difficult as you might expect).  Then Katia joined us at New Delhi Restaurant in the city on Sunday night for the Compassionate Chefs Benefit.  It's her last performance with us before she heads off to graduate school in London (although we expect to be dancing with her in the future!).  The performance was great and the audience appreciative.  The space was a little tight, so I could definitely smell the tasty food on the plates of the people in front of me while I danced!  Despite the sensory distraction the dancing went well and afterwards we had some tasty Indian food and lovely mango martinis.  Here's a link to the work Compassionate Chefs does to support children in Indian and the Tenderloin.  

Shab, Katia, Emily, Vicki, Me, Andrea
Photo from Vicki Virk
All this performance coupled with docent training last week has me thinking about the purpose of performance and art.  Our lecture at the Asian Art Museum last week was about rasa, or the emotions evoked for a viewer by dance or theatre.  (Rasa literally means juice or extract, and is used to denote the "best or finest part of a thing.")   Although rasa is a performance theory, it has been applied to art as well.  The nine rasas are erotic (sensual), comic, pathetic (sympathetic or compassionate), serious (angry), heroic (courageous), terrible (fearful), odious (disgusted), marvelous (awestruck), and quiescent (contemplative or peaceful).  We examined several examples of sensuous, comic, and terrible rasas in the museum's collection, noting that the classification depends on the experience of the viewer.  What might be terrible to one person could be comic to another.

I was struck by the idea that we were assigning the experience of knowing and interpreting art to the viewer, rather than the artist or art expert.  It is the impression left with the viewer or the emotional reaction they have to a piece that actually brings art to life.  Interestingly, I usually evaluate a bhangra performance based on how it felt, or if we have a video, how it looked (Did I remember the steps?  Were we in unison?  Did we appear to be having fun?) .  All those things are important, but overall they're a pretty rudimentary evaluation.  How did our performance affect the audience?  How might they have felt while watching?  And what might we want them to feel?  If I had to hazard a guess, I'm assuming bhangra is not going to evoke quiescent feelings in the audience.  Yes, we are within the realm of the sensuous, but maybe we could even throw a bit of comic, heroic, or marvelous in there too.