A rapturous rendering of Kathak
- Padma Jayaraj, Thrissur
e-mail: padmajayaraj@gmail.com

April 12, 2010 

Nirupama and Rajendra, the dancing couple, are soul mates born to dance, destined to carry dance beyond the bounds of tradition creating new aesthetics using innovative techniques and technology. Their rapturous rendering of Kathak dance during International Dance Festival conducted by Lasya Academy, Thrissur, generated pure joy for the audience.

The evolution of Kathak, from its original Harikatha in the temple underwent changes to become a court dance in the Mughal period. Now it has expanded itself in such a way to incorporate global themes in universal dimensions. The dancing couple has enhanced the form by accepting outside influences both in music and dance vocabulary. It is very difficult to pinpoint where the traditional deviates to give place to something new. The fusion is complementary just as the dancers complement each other in an aesthetic mode. The evening was a show of both traditional as well as the neo traditional, a dance style created by the couple in their Abhinava Dance Company. The performance began with a scintillating item of pure dance in traditional Kathak to the accompaniment of pure music that flowed from the CD. The stage setting and lighting created the perfect ambience exploiting state-of-the art-technology. The North Indian classical dance, characterized by its rhythmic footwork, spectacular spins, elegant swirls, quick pirouettes, and sudden poses mesmerized the audience.

The second piece was Sringara Rama, a traditional duet inspired by Tulasidas’ Ramayana. An unusual presentation with a dream sequence brought charm to innocent young love. A dramatic moment, the first encounter of Rama and Seetha, the first flush of love and an ensuing dream sequence is a composition dedicated to tender love. Young Rama wanders, charmed by the beauty of nature, a great prelude to the entry of Seetha. One of her companions, strolling on their way to the Spring festival, is bowled over by the handsome young princes, Rama and his brother. Such wonder is simply contagious that Seetha herself comes to peep. For a magical moment, the eye contact makes them forgetful of reality. Lost in the strange chemistry of attraction, they fly on the viewless wings of fantasy. Love is born in its first flush…Rama, Purushothama is synonymous with dignity, but by then the spell is cast. They are aware of the reality around. What could have degenerated into a filmy version of a great story becomes a superb dramatic moment in the hands of great artists. The gliding movements used to present the dream was enchanting. So was music by Praveen Rao

The Meera-Madhav piece also was marked by the stamp of the unusual. The item begins with Meera enveloped in Krishna’s protective love, asleep on his lap. Like a mother cradling her baby, Meera lives drunk in the vision of Krishna ever since her childhood. And Krishna is ever present sheltering, helping, directing every movement in her life.  Krishna stands vigil over her. Meera speaks to the idol in front, but gets confused by the vision nearby. When Meera tries to pluck flowers to make a garland for her beloved idol, Krishna showers flowers by shaking the tree. The dignified communion between the mortal and the immortal is very different from that of Radha-Krishna. Yet Meera lives enveloped in Krishna’s love and tenderness. A slow rendering in classic Kathak style to the music of Praveen Rao, it was a beautiful composition.

Nigaah in neo traditional style was another beautiful piece of pure dance. Nigaah, a   vision of love, merges into Nigaah the vision of peace, shanthi, peace beyond understanding. What begins with love between two, transcends the human to encompass the whole world. The doves set free to rise above everything, helps to create a universal hankering for peace. The message is that harmony is peace. And it ends with a prayer to God to remove all ills and fill the void with love and peace. Music is Indian, tempered with Spanish and jazz to give a world dimension, a fitting concluding piece.

The audience sat through the short duration wanting more of its magic and thrill. For perfection, a live rhythmic dialogue between the dance and music should have been there. But alas, many things are dear and costly.

Padma Jayaraj is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com