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    Traditional and folk performances, at the 24th Mamallapuram Dance Festival

    The best time to visit Mahaba-lipuram is between December and January. Fans of the Shore Temple, the sandy beaches, the seafood at Moonrakers and the souvenir stalls near the market, will also want to linger as the  Mamallapuram Dance Festival gains momentum. In its 24th edition, the festival is on till January 21 and has as its backdrop archeological marvels and sculptures. This year is one of the biggest with 104 performances over 30 days. The festival generally promotes traditional dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohini-yattam and Kathakali. But there are some additions. Patrik William George, a tourist officer, promises “folk dances from other states, like Dandiya and Garba from Gujarat, Bhavai by Harihara Baba from Rajasthan and Bhangra from Punjab.’’ Cultural groups are expected to come in from Assam and Nagaland too.” It is an extension of the December festival, with Bharat-natyam performances by senior artistes like Saroja Vaidya-nathan and Chitra Visweswaran. Names like Kuchipudi maestro Jayarama Rao, Mohiniyattam exponent Gopika Varma and Kathak pandita Uma Dogra are the other crowd pullers. The festival also gives a platform to Indian classical dancers from abroad and attracts a considerable expat following. This year, troupes from the US, Dubai and Paris are expected. Many photographers find this a great opportunity to capture beautiful dance forms against unforgettable settings. Despite the crowds, regulars insist that the experience is pleasant, while entrepreneurs look forward to the business it encourages. Balaji Venkatesan, who owns Hotel Ramakrishna in the vicinity, agrees, “We are almost full and the tourism industry is thriving here thanks to the festival.”
    Till January 21, near Shore Temple. Details: 27442232, tamilnadutourism.org

    Mrinalini Sundar

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