Diwali in B.C. is coming to Maple Ridge.
The inaugural event will feature an evening of South Asian culture, including classical and contemporary dance and live music performances. Rohit Chokhani has been curating different Diwali-based events for the past six years.
“The idea is it’s kind of like a journey to India and with different musical and dance from South Asia,” explained the Jesse Award-winning artistic director.
The event is part of a provincial initiative aimed at making Diwali celebrations province-wide over the next five years.
Diwali in B.C. was launched last year with the artistic theme, Shakti, meaning feminine power.
This year the theme is New Horizons, with performances responding artistically to racial tensions and gender abuse in Vancouver, Coquitlam, Vernon, Maple Ridge and Nanaimo.
The festival started Oct. 3.
“What we are trying to do is to have shows that respond to those themes and those questions that are continuing to come into the limelight these days,” explained Chokhani.
“The New Horizons theme for me as an artistic director and a curator for the Diwali in B.C. Festival came out of two things: one, was more into how do we respond to what’s going on in the world and we certainly see a lot of violence happening against gender and I also see a lot of racial tension emerging politically and societally,” he said.
For Chokhani, Diwali, the Indian New Year and the celebration of light over darkness, does not necessarily mean that celebrations should centre around the light.
“We also look at darkness and go inwards, introspect on it and understand darkness much more. I think the theme speaks to that,” he said.
Chokhani grew up in Mumbai, India before moving when he was 22-years-old and he says Diwali is about bringing different cultures together.
“In India, the geography and the demographics are slightly different but there is still a lot of diversity. There are Hindus, there are Muslims, there are Sikhs and there are also different parts of India that have different demographics and diversity,” said Chokhani, comparing the diversity in India to Metro Vancouver and the rest of Canada.
The show at the ACT will have everything from Bollywood dance performances to classical India and South Asian dance performances and classical singing. Between acts there will be storytelling and an explanation of the history of the dance forms and how it all ties in to the concept of Diwali.
The headliner is Shiamak Vancouver.
“Shiamak is a very well known Bollywood curator. If you’ve seen a Bollywood movie there is a pretty high chance that he has choreographed a number in it,” said Chokhani of the owner of Bollywood dance schools all over the world.
“I feel like the spirit of Diwali and the concept of Diwali brings people together and we can have conversations,” said Chokhani, adding that it’s like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas squeezed into five days of celebration.