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Monday, December 27, 2010

Kathak in a new avatar

Experience the new-age jugalbandi combination through the performances of two young kathak dancers

Hindustani classical performing artistes have been undertaking many new and different experiments to reach different layers of the audience. In the past the ‘jugalbandi’ format was widely used and it is still in demand.

Fusion concerts comprising of Hindustani, Carnatic and Western, African or Spanish musicians are very much in vogue. Tabla players who have been traveling abroad are often exposed to the prevailing fashions in world music and thus they are inspired to try their hands at new combinations.

Following this trend, senior tabla exponent, Kalinath Mishra, who belongs to the Benaras gharana, has been accompanying reputed Kathak dancers like the legendary Birju Maharaj or even those like Uma Dogra and Keka Sinha, who dominate the Mumbai Kathak scene.

“The Benaras gharana of the tabla has a close association with the Kathak dance form. My guru Kishen Maharaj used to provide tabla accompaniment to the great Birju Maharaj or Sitara Devi,” says Kalinath Mishra.

Kalinath, through his long association as a tabla player, has developed insights into the dance form and has been guiding young Kathak performers. Arpana Rao and Priya Chauhan, two prominent young dancers who have initially learned from Mita Bannerjee of the Jaipur gharana of Kathak, will present a performance at the Juhu Iscon Auditorium on Sunday January 2.

Arpana Rao has been an actor on the English language theatre, having acted in plays like, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ‘ and ‘I Do and I Don’t’. She has had her earlier training in the Kathak dance form from Asha Joglekar and Uma Dogra.

Arpana Rao will present a ‘Saraswati Vandana’, an invocation to the Goddess Saraswati. “It is a kind of a ritual but it is an essential part of a dance performance of every kind. We find ‘Vandana’ in Odissi or even in ‘Bharatnatyam’,” says Arpana. The pure dance segment will include a 16 beat teen taal presentation by Arpana and also 14 beat dhamar taal presentation by Priya Chauhan.

“The 16 beat teen taal is quite familiar to the lay audience, because most of the musical compositions in classical music are set to teen taal. However, dhamar is an ancient taal and a part of the dhrupad repertoire. It has its own dignity and character. To synchronize one’s steps to the beat of dhamar is a challenge to one’s skills as a dancer,” says Priya.

The Kathak dance has been influenced by the folk culture of the eastern Uttar Pradesh. The song forms like the kajri or thumri have their origins in this soil. The dancers will enact a ‘Kajri’, which is a love song of the monsoon season, during their performance. They will also enact the song, ‘Nirtat Dhang’, an ‘ashtapadi’ in the raga ‘Des’, was composed by the pioneer of the Kathak form, Binadadin Maharaj.

The language-independent syllables of the tarana form lend themselves ideally to the rhythmic variations, which a Kathak dance performance demands. Priya and Arpana will also present a tarana duet to the resounding beats played on the tabla by Kalinath Mishra. On a cool winter afternoon the duo will charge up the atmosphere with their energetic footwork.

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