Huge crowds gathered to watch the dance performance at the Etisalat Academy ground in Muhaisnah, Dubai. Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: Passion and patriotism united when 1,246 Indian women in the UAE presented a performance of a traditional dance form of Kerala, Thiruvathira, in Dubai on Friday.

The women, a majority of them hailing from the South Indian state of Kerala, presented the dance at the Etisalat Academy.

Their performance was part of a carnival named ‘Pooram Dubai 2017’, an event replicating the mini version of Thrissur Pooram, the most famous cultural festival of Kerala.

From young girls to grandmothers, the dancers — dressed in traditional Kerala attire and with jasmine flowers adorning their hair — offered a visual feast of rhythm and grace to thousands of spectators.

Their two-month-long practice sessions in 40 groups at homes, parks and other venues across the UAE found fruition as they danced, uniformly bedecked in finery, for 15 minutes and 30 seconds, choreographed by Malayalam actress and dancer Asha Sharath.

Sreerekha Ajithkumar, one of the coordinators of the performance, told Gulf News that a lot of effort had gone into the arrangement for the first-of-its-kind, all-women performance in Dubai.

“It was a challenge to locally source the same items for such a large number of participants. We had to get the set sari and mundu (traditional attire) and jewellery from Kerala and also book a bulk order for jasmine garlands from a flower shop here.”

Another coordinator, Smitha Suresh, saluted the spirit of the participants. “These wonderful women and girls put in a lot of effort to make this happen.”

From girls to grandmothers, the dancers — dressed in traditional Kerala attire and with jasmine flowers adorning their hair — offered a visual feast of rhythm and grace.

Age, faith no bar

The coordinators particularly appreciated the participation of Seethala Babu, a grandmother in her sixties.

“She is the oldest participant and is dancing with a torn tendon in her right hand. She postponed a keyhole surgery and has been managing with physiotherapy sessions to not miss the event. She is also the team leader of 48 women from Al Khail Gate community,” explained Sreerekha.

Jaya Gopakumar, another coordinator, said it was heartening to see women of different faiths and non-Malayalees also joining the troupe.

“We have Hindu, Christian and Muslim participants. Around 50 women are from other states in the south and north of India.”

Hailing from Maharashtra, Ashwini Mohinani, whose daughter Gayatri took part in the dance, said she was excited to join the women dancers after she got to know of the event from an Onam festival celebration she attended with Malayalee friends.

“It is a beautiful show they have come up with. I had to drop out in between as I couldn’t manage to go for practice daily due to work. I’m glad my daughter could be a part of it.”

Daily practice

Rajani Prasanth from Abu Dhabi, who led a 14-member team, said the friends living in Mussafah, Abu Dhabi, did not miss the daily practice and also made it to the weekend practices in Dubai, all thanks to their passion for dancing.

Vaishnavi Sreekumar, who runs a private dance institute in Al Ghusais, brought in the biggest team of participants. “We are 76 members. Except three teenagers, all are mothers and four of them are dancing for the first time.”

Remya Bineesh, another dance teacher, said the women were excited to be a part of the performance said to bid for the record of the largest Thiruvathira performed outside India.

“Whether we set a record or not, we are thrilled that we are participating in this and spreading happiness in Dubai. It is also our tribute to this city and this country.”

The Pooram Dubai carnival, organised by Crystal Top Events, also featured a grand percussion performance by traditional drummers flown in from Kerala and ‘kudamaattam’, the changing of the traditional ornate umbrellas by mahouts sitting atop elephants, for which five life-size elephant replicas were arranged.