Hava Nagila!

Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid

Covent Garden

India has been, among other things, flash dancing off late. Railway stations, parks, malls, colleges, workplaces, street corners and popular shopping malls – that is almost everywhere, people are flash dancing.

It all started with Ringa ringa song in 7 aum arivu. Murugadoss and the dance master had placed people within many shop entrances in Ranganathan Street, TNagar. On hearing the music, Surya would start and the rest would dance according to their movements. The song was thus choreographed.

Then, Shonan Kothari, 23, from Mumbai took it out of the studios. The authorities found it baffling when she said she wanted a hundred people to dance all of a sudden at CST! Why would you want to do that – they asked her. For fun – she replied. Naturally, the video went viral on the internet and every major city has followed suit.

Delhi’s flash mob flopped but they have been livelier in other cities. Chennai had two flash mobs, Kochi, Kolkata and even Indians in Auckland and other countries have taken to it. Bangalore has had multiple flash mobs, but looks like they like dancing inside their institutions. They had one in Infosys, one in IIM and one in some other IT office.

This reminded me of something that I saw during my rambles around the city of London. Between Shaftesbury Avenue and The Strand lies a very picturesque place called Covent Garden. Situated amidst The Royal Opera House and Theatre Royal, it is quite a spectacle. If you have read Sherlock Holmes, you would imagine a flourishing fruit, vegetable and flower market there. The markets have now converted themselves into tourist centres and shopping arcades. The Hansom cabs of Holmes’s days have given way to rickshaws and taxis. But the performers have stayed.

Street performances have been happening there since 1662. They continue to this day, now of course it is licensed. The Courtyard only hosts classical music while the other performances are held in North Hall and West Piazza. Regardless of weather, there is a 30 minute show every hour of every day except on Christmas Day. They have multiple flash mobs there every day.

Crowds throng the spaces to watch their artists sing, dance and do drama for free in Covent Garden. Performers flock to the place because they know they are sure to garner genuine applause and publicity, not to mention a large fan following. There are people who do performances in Covent Garden when they begin their stage careers; there are people who do it for a life time; there are people who do it once – for the heck of performing in Covent Garden.

Most performances are interactive and hence the audience enjoy it even more. Sometimes the audience themselves launch into impromptu performances. It is one gala place. The atmosphere is festive and the enthusiasm feverish. There is a definite electricity in the place, a college like scenery. The performances leave you wondering what you have been doing with your lives till date. There is a nostalgic air about Covent Garden too – I am able to vividly recall the man dressed in greens when I went there and the singers who trouped in with their band. It is a sight to watch people after a day’s hard work come out and enjoy some shows.

I cannot help remembering these lines of Wordsworth’s Daffodils when I think of Covent Garden –

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

I felt a similar excitement when I saw the flash mobs. They were great! But somehow, they didn’t have the vibrancy that is part of Covent Garden.

A few hours in Covent Garden is always a very rich and rewarding experience. What a fine evening that was!


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This entry was posted on December 21, 2011 by in Thoughts and tagged , , , .

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