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The Navarasas of Tchaikovsky

Navrasa Duende, a new production house, is bringing Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake to India for the first time

Photo: Courtesy Royal Russian Ballet
Photo: Courtesy Royal Russian Ballet

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as piped music would not be a natural choice for an office building housing an engineering company. But then, the headquarters of Energo India, approached by traversing the dusty by-lanes of Gurugram’s Udyog Vihar, is no ordinary building. Apart from housing the offices of the industrial group, whose interests include energy, power and construction, it is now home to Navrasa Duende, a new production house that is bringing Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake, to India next month.

“There have been amateur productions of the ballet, but this is the first time in living memory that a professional ballet company is performing Swan Lake in India," says Dinesh B. Singh, founder of Navrasa Duende and managing director of Energo. A co-production with the Royal Russian Ballet of Ukraine, it will see around 40 people flying in from there, including dancers and technical crew. “Everything will be flown in—costumes, sets, even the flooring they have to dance on," he says. The programme is scheduled for 22-24 September at Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium.

Singh’s office floor is plush and the walls have framed posters of eclectic art, from the post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh to Indian modernist Amrita Sher-Gil. For Singh, art and science are not separate. “For us, it’s all an expression of creativity. While I couldn’t take up theatre as a profession, I have always loved it and value creativity, no matter what form it takes, be it engineering or a painting." Singh’s business acumen and interest in the arts explain Duende’s unique model, with interests ranging from theatre, film and music to literature, dance and wellness.

The name, however, isn’t easy to understand. “The name reflects our global approach to arts and entertainment," Singh explains. “Navarasa, as you know, are the nine emotions in Indian art aesthetics and duende is an interesting Spanish word. When an artist or a performer takes the viewer or the audience into her world emotionally, a duende is said to have occurred. Our company wants to give a chance to audiences for a duende with world arts and the bilingual name reflects our global vision."

Their first event was a concert by Pandit Jasraj early this year, followed by an Alfred Hitchcock and Frank Capra film festival in Delhi.

A co-production with the Royal Russian Ballet of Ukraine, it will see around 40 people flying in from Ukraine, including dancers and technical crew-

Apart from presenting productions, the company plans to build a “campus" that will provide a platform for global arts, for all age groups. Work has begun, with 100 acres having been acquired 70km from Bengaluru. The first phase, which Singh says will include “a couple of movie halls, two auditoriums for theatre and concerts", should be ready by 2020. Ultimately, the campus will include “at least a dozen auditoriums, 50 venues, including wellness centres and stay facilities".

Swan Lake is the company’s first milestone on the road to realizing its overall vision. “We wanted to bring a classical art form from outside India. Ballet was obvious because it has dance, music and drama combined, which Indian audiences would love. The other reason, of course, is Tchaikovsky’s music. Indians are emotional people and the emotional range of his music is extensive, covering everything from sublime and tender to furious and romantic."

Singh is confident of a full house —2,000 seats, much more than an average Broadway or a London West End theatre. “People want change and more variety, especially in metros. Family entertainment genres are few and far between." Moreover, he adds, they are keen to see Indian audiences develop a taste for global arts, for “great art transcends geographical boundaries".

Obviously, a venture like this is not devoid of challenges. “The problem is India just doesn’t have good enough auditoriums and concert halls," says Singh. “The stage at Siri Fort is small but it’s the best venue in Delhi we could think of."

The director of the Royal Russian Ballet, Anatoliy Kazatskiy, speaking over the phone from Ukraine, agrees. “Better auditoriums in India can really improve audience experience, and though this stage is not ideal, it is not bad. We are making special scenery just for this stage, and also bringing our lighting designer, sound engineer, wardrobe team and stage technicians."

A possible further complication has been avoided—the touring ballet company will be using recorded music of the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra. While a live orchestra can enliven the atmosphere, the current arrangement enables the company to take its art to places with financial and spatial constraints.

The director is enthusiastic. “It’s our first time in India and we hope to satisfy and gratify Indian audiences with our art; we’re really looking forward to our meeting." Having signed a memorandum with Duende, the company plans to tour other Indian cities in the future with ballets such as Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker and Giselle.

Swan Lake will be performed by the Royal Russian Ballet, Ukraine, at Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi, from 22-24 September. For bookings, visit

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