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April 1, 1998

Indian performance troupe comes to UCSC

A Kathakali dancer

By Francine Tyler

Each year, the Alumni Association brings an outstanding scholar or teacher to UCSC for one quarter as part of its Distinguished Visiting Professor program.

This year, the program is dancing to a new tune. Instead of a single person, UCSC will host six: all actors and musicians of the Kathakali Kalakeli performance troupe from Kerala, India.

Troupe members will teach a two-credit course at Porter College on Kathakali performance during spring quarter. The course will expose students to all aspects of the rigorous and complex performance genre and teach eye and body movement, hand signs, and musical and vocal techniques, said Porter provost Kathy Foley.

Kathakali performance, which dates from the 17th century, relies on 24 hand gestures and nine stylized facial expressions to portray various emotions. The performers take on roles as gods, demons, ogres, temptresses, and kings in tales from Indian mythological epics where truth and goodness always triumph over evil.

"We hope that this unique experience can expose students to this classical art of the subcontinent," said Foley, "and that the model of artistic integration and fusion that the art form offers can inspire the young artists we are training."

The Kathakali course will dovetail with other activities related to Indian performance planned for spring quarter, including a visit by Regents' Lecturer Zakir Hussain and master percussionist Terry Riley. Their workshops will interface with a second Porter course on Indian music.

The troupe is expected to give a demonstration at Porter's Asian/Pacific Rim Performing Arts Festival on April 18 as part of the Banana Slug Spring Fair celebration. They will also perform at local schools and community venues and at the Palo Alto Cultural Center during their residence at UCSC, Foley said. A second free public performance will take place on April 22 in the Performing Arts Mainstage Theater at 8 p.m.

The Distinguished Visiting Professor program is supported by an endowment and sponsored by the Alumni Association to enhance academic programs at UCSC's eight colleges. The professorship rotates among the colleges.

For more information, call the Alumni Office at (408) 459-2530.

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