A review by Lauren Hardie for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times.

Maybe you’ve seen an Indian classical dance performance, and maybe you’ve heard Afro-Caribbean poetry spoken or read aloud. But there’s a really good chance you’ve never seen the two together, on the same stage. That’s because it’s never been done before.

“I haven’t seen anything like this either, ” says Ranjana Warier, artistic director of Surya: The Eternal Rhythm.

An internationally recognized performer, choreographer, and teacher, Warier is also artistic director of Rhythms School of Dance, an Indian classical dance training center in Davie. Warier has won two Knight Foundation Arts Challenge awards: The first, in 2012, resulted in a collaborative interpretation of Sleeping Beauty; the second, received toward the end of 2014, is helping to fund Surya.

But it’s a bit surprising that Warier has chosen to do this particular type of collaboration, with dance, music, and poetry all coming together onstage at once.

“I’m a pretty traditional Indian dancer,” she says. “But I have been looking for all these opportunities to push the boundaries.”

Primarily a dance show inspired by poetry, Surya is a joint project between Warier and Miami-born poet, writer, and artist Adrian Castro.

Widely recognized as one of the most important poets of his generation, Castro creates poetry that melds Afro-Caribbean rhythms and myths.

How the two artists came to cross paths was no coincidence. Warier has collaborated with literary artists before and had a working relationship with the Miami Book Fair team. The whole discussion got started when someone floated the idea of doing something in conjunction with National Poetry Month.Warier got started on the project by reading the works of many people. That’s how she got exposed to Castro’s poetry.

Castro has said that although they have to do with spirituality, the poems he’s shared with Warier for this project aren’t necessarily his most rhythmic. Yet his words alone, steeped in mythology, often seem to dance on paper and off the tongue when spoken.

“Reading through his poetry — even though it’s a different culture — I felt an immediate connection through the work he was portraying,” says Warier. “What Adrian writes, even though it’s from his perspective, it relates to all the other cultures in the world.”

Warier admits that Indian classical dance can be cryptic and difficult to understand for people who don’t have any background knowledge of it. But she believes we’re all a lot more similar than different. So through this project, she’s trying to make both poetry and Indian classical dancing more relevant to the South Florida community — a challenge she sees as an opportunity to teach.

“I believe any art form should be educational, entertaining, and engaging,” Warier says. “If you lose one, it doesn’t serve its full purpose.”

The Miami Book Fair team wanted to attract more people to reading and poetry through something visual, something different, and this collaborative production is the perfect answer.

South Florida will have only two chances to catch Surya: once in Broward, presented in all its glory, and once more on April 2 (for National Poetry Month) at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus, which will be a more intimate and interactive presentation where the audience will be able to ask questions. Both performances will showcase the coming together of many different cultures, acts, and lifestyles, and Warier hopes they will bring the community together as well.

To sweeten the deal at the first performance, catered Indian food will be on sale beginning at 6 p.m.

“I usually do that at my events because it’s like a complete experience… We want to please all five senses,” she says. “Hungry people don’t make good audiences.”

Surya: The Eternal Rhythm
7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 9, at the Miramar Cultural Center/ArtsPark, 2400 Civic Center Place, Miramar. Tickets cost $15 to $25 plus fees via Call 954-602-4500.

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