One of the coolest things about MNN’s programming is that is celebrates what’s going on in the local Manhattan community. This month, we’re excited to present a broadcast of this weekend’s cultural festival honoring the 10th Anniversary of The India Center, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting traditional Indian arts.

The event, the Sixth Annual Natraj Hindu Folk Arts Festival, will be held this Saturday, May 4 at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in Manhattan, and will feature traditional Indian music and dance along with presentations on yoga, architecture and typical cuisine.

“We started the organization in 2003 to educate young Indian-American children about their background,” says The India Center Director Veena Shetty. “Before long, high school kids, then college students, then working people were expressing interest and getting involved.”

Indeed, 2012’s Natraj Festival boasted an impressive age range among performers, with the oldest dancer having tucked more than 60 birthdays under her belt, and the youngest a mere four.

To give you a taste: Last year’s event included many exciting recitals. Hallie-Simoné Bolden, a member of the New York City-based Lalitha Dance Troupe who has trained in Bollywood, presented a dance from the Indian state of Rajasthan; popular folk singer Gurpreet Singh celebrated the energetic music of northwest India; and the festival’s children’s group performed Koli, a traditional fisherman's dance from the state of Maharashtra.

“The Natraj Folk Festival is always a favorite for my dance troupe,” says Stephanie Lalitha Cosme, Artistic Director and Choreographer for Lalitha Dance Troupe. “We get the opportunity to showcase so many different dances with artistic freedom and that really goes a long way as a dancer.”

What to expect from this year’s dance performances? Cosme describes a devotional piece called “Jai Kali Ma” intended to express the empowerment of the feminine spirit; a solo Indian-contemporary piece; a celebratory Rajasthani dance piece to the popular song "Holiya Me Ude Re Gulal;” and a solo traditional piece that she herself will perform.

The Sixth Annual Natraj Hindu Folk Arts Festival will be held on Saturday, May 4 starting at 2pm at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in Manhattan. Check out The India Center on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and at, and stay tuned for news on MNN’s special broadcast of the event later this month!