Drive East has become one of Navatman’s well-loved traditions. It centers around art, community, joy, and intimacy by showcasing myriad forms of music and dance. Drive East has garnered enthusiastic reviews from journalists and critics, patrons and pupils – it conjures a sense of familiarity and warmth. This week-long festival, which was born in New York City and expanded to San Francisco, is ignited by the core team at Navatman and fueled further by the multitudes of artists who perform, patrons who attend, admirers who tell their friends and family. Drive East creates a platform for the Indian Classical arts because it has always been about the people.
I’ll never forget volunteering for my first Drive East at Dixon Place in 2018. Artists from all over the world gathered at the artist hub to engage and create. The hallways were abuzz with conversation. I was in awe of the energy in this place – lively and warm like an outdoor festival yet tingling with mystery and excitement like when the curtain goes up. It shattered my impression of professional art events. No posh airs? No standoffishness? Just a fresh, inviting space for artists, curators, you, and me to come together in celebration for our love of the performing arts.
All the tumult in the world right now has upended normalcy in the performing arts. A performer’s “office” is now a recording booth, sabha, or dance studio. Navatman has adapted too, with our online platform for school semesters, private lessons, masterclasses, Nuance classes, and live stream performances. Given this existential transformation, we wondered, “What is the fate of Drive East?”
We realized that although the world has transformed, some things haven’t: Musicians, dancers, patrons, children need to manifest their love for art. We need a shared respite with our community. We need an oasis of intimacy between artist and audience.
We need sanctuary.