You hoped it would never come: The Kennedy Center’s Maximum India festival is winding down to its last few days. After Sunday, there will be no more intricately fashioned bling to covet, no more snakelike dancers, no more tabla, dhol drums or ankle bells ringing out across the center.
But the next few days are some of the most exciting of the whole festival, with some of the best free offerings, from a high-energy show channeling Bollywood’s hip-shaking song-and-dance culture, to a closing party on the Millennium Stage helmed by rapper Panjabi MC.
The party atmosphere really gets going Thursday, when Ticket to Bollywood, a show that was conceived to spotlight the Indian movie industry’s glitzy dance numbers at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. You can see it free on Millennium Stage.
This week’s hot performance is the sold-out musical spectacle “Manganiyar Seduction,” but forget about trolling Craigslist for a ticket. Instead, check out another thumping musical ensemble, Taal India. The drum ensemble members, who dress in traditional garb, use nine kinds of drums, and they perform for free on Friday evening.
Saturday evening brings a rare opportunity to see the unusual art of kathakali; covered in elaborate makeup and costumes, dancers re-enact religious stories. See it performed by the Kerala Kalamandalam Kathakali Troupe, a company that hails from South India’s Kerala state. Strange, moving and verging on tribal, it should make the must-do lists of modern dance fans and the culturally curious.
And finally, be sure to stand in line early — some 6 p.m. Millennium Stage shows have been forming at 4 p.m. — for Sunday’s blowout closer, Panjabi MC. The British rapper blends Punjabi folk music (think: drum-heavy rhythms made for dancing) and hip-hop inspired pop, which has won him fans like Jay-Z. Expect crowds to file into the KenCen to hear him play his big hit, “Beware of the Boys.”