Saturday, March 19, 2011

Jason goes to SFIAAFF--San Jose Opening Night Gala

Celebrating 10 years in the South Bay. How did they ever survive the 19 years without it?

Oh, and when I arrived at the Montgomery Theatre for the show, I ran into my old film buddy, Phil, who now has a film blog, and has already written a much better review of the night than I will. Welcome to the blogging world, Phil! Time to start parlaying that into press passes.

Anyway, the program started with the obligatory thank yous to the sponsors. We love our sponsors at CAAM. Then an adorable dance performance by the Chhandam Youth Dance Company, a dance school operated by Pandit Chitresh Das.

By amazing coincidence (or not), the movie, UPAJ, was also about Pandit Chitresh Das, master of the classical Indian dance technique of Kathak. The lazy way to describe Kathak is to say you can't describe it, you have to see it in person. So allow me to say that I can't describe it, you have to see it in person. Very expressive, with furiously flying feet covered in bells making a joyous, celebratory noise. So it's completely natural to team that up with tap dance. Or at least, it seems like a perfect fit when 63 year old Chitresh Das is teamed up with 30 year old Jason Samuels Smith, a rising tap sensation from Hell's Kitchen. Together they form India Jazz Suites, which...can't be described, it has to be seen. It's not fusion--Das never does tap, and Smith never does Kathak, but it's like they have an amazing wordless conversation on stage, sharing and echoing rhythm and joyful expression.

While I thought the movie captures this pretty well (including their backgrounds and friendly relationship backstage), the real treat that totally blew me away was a brief dance performance by Das and Smith live on stage. Wow,! While watching them, it's hard not to be hypnotized by their feet. But if you are blessed to be able to see them live, and are in the front row (like I always am!) pull your eyes away from their feet and check out their eyes. There's some amazing, crazy passion going on there. I'm not a dancer, but I believe if you're not seeking (or have found) something in your life that makes you feel what I saw in their eyes, you're not living. For me, watching great movies (and telling others about them) is pretty close.

Running Time: 40 minutes (wow, the movie was pretty short, but the whole show was more than worth the price of admission)
My Total Minutes: 229,536

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