Artistes of Nrityaki Dance Academy rivet diverse crowd with myriad performances.
DULLES, Virginia – In a historic first, Diwali, the popular Indian festival of lights, was celebrated in the national capital region’s famed Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) — a riveting sight for passengers, visitors, airport personnel, flight and cabin crew.
Akanksha Sharma, marketing associate for Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and brainchild behind the celebration, informed us at the outset, “This is the first event of its kind both in the region and at IAD.” The airport authority operates both IAD, typically referred to as Dulles Airport or simply Dulles, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
A gateway to the world, Dulles Airport serves over 24 million passengers a year. It is located in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, some 26 miles west of downtown Washington, DC. Together, the counties house over half of Virginia’s Indian population which equates to some 65,000 residents. Air India inaugurated its capital-to-capital connection between Dulles and Delhi in the summer of 2017 and the airport has seen a steady increase in passengers of Indian origin.
“We wanted to showcase the rich Indian culture,” said Sharma hoping the initial efforts will lay the groundwork for a sparkling annual event. “We have a lot of passengers of Indian and Asian descent who travel through our airport, and who celebrate Diwali. The goal is to organize the event on a large scale.”
Friday’s festivities which drew a diverse lot of onlookers included: Indian dance performances by students of the Sterling-based Nrityaki Dance Academy, founded and directed by Kathak exponent Shweta Misra; henna art demonstration by Maria Arshad; giveaway cookies embellished with “Happy Diwali” and freebie international chargers.
Shweta described the experience as “making a part of history. The best part is that our culture, our Diwali, is recognized on an international level. Dulles airport is celebrating Diwali for the first time and Nrityaki students will be performing at the event”, she said which was a matter of great pride and excitement for her as she deftly choreographed the dances.
“My students will be performing various dance styles — Kathak, semi-classical or folk, and Bollywood – for variety and with a view to appeal to the diverse crowd at the airport,” she told us.
“This event is a fantastic initiative promoting our culture in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area,” gushed Sneha Misra, winner of the 2019 Miss India DC pageant. “Nrityaki artistes performing at Dulles Airport is something new. That is what always impresses me about the DMV area: Indian Americans are always making strides in new directions,” she said.
Shreya Baral performed two dances: a pure Kathak item; and a fusion piece set to a film song “Mohe rang do laal” (Bajirao Mastani).
About the celebration at Dulles Airport, she said, “I feel it is really keeping our culture alive because it is on an international platform and everyone can see it. I’m really glad to be a part of this event!”