Journey of Indian Dance: Kathak Yatra by Gauri Jog
- Vandana Choudhury, IL

March 22, 2012

On March 18, 2012 Gauri Jog and students of Indian Dance School staged their annual show ‘Journey of Indian Dance’ (Kathak Yatra) at Prairie Center for the Arts at Schaumburg, IL. The presentation was another example of professionalism and creativity of Gauri Jog who has been running her dance school in Chicago area for the past 12 years. 

The concept of this program was to depict the transformation of this beautiful dance form from its ancient form of art depicting Indian mythology and scriptures to its present state of dance with contemporary themes. Audience got the opportunity to see Kathak dance in its pure classical form to Kathak as used in Bollywood films today. Every dance presented in this program depicted distinct aspects of Kathak in varying proportions like amad (a dramatic entry of the dancer on the stage), thaat (a slow and graceful section), todas, tukra and paran (in which the dancer continuously improvises on a given composition), parhant (rhythmic light steps) and tatkar which is strong footwork.

The program started with traditional Ganesh Vandana, a prayer to Lord Ganesha to seek his blessings. The items that followed depicted stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The first dance was about the naughty pranks of Lord Krishna as a child and a teaser of Gopis in Vrindavan. The second dance told the story of Dashavatar (ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu). The audience gave a big applause for small girls dancing with extraordinary energy to “Thumak Chalat,” the story of Lord Rama as a young boy. Indian Dance School currently has students learning from as young as four years old. In yet another classical series, four dances were presented using thumri, sargam, tarana and chatrang. Chatrang which represented four aspects of Kathak namely paran, expression, sargam and palte was performed by senior students of Indian Dance School with grace and energy.

Gauri Jog lived up to the expectation of presenting something new by presenting an item using basketball. This was widely appreciated by the audience. In the past, students of Indian Dance School have done fusion with many dance styles including Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Flamenco and American Ballet.  Jog has evolved a unique style to combine classical, Bollywood, folk and yoga to satisfy all those looking to learn multiple dance styles and benefit from them. “I always challenge myself and my students to do something different and that is how such programs are born,” said Gauri.

The centerpiece of the program was Trivat dance performed by Gauri Jog and Isha Jog which showed absolute coordination between the dancers while performing on bols, sargam and kavit. “There are many mother - daughter combinations learning dance together at Indian Dance School and it is perhaps best time spent with my daughter to build ever lasting relationship,” said one lady.  The program also featured ‘Mujra’ to represent how Kathak was transformed during Mughal Empire in India as a form of entertainment. The program ended with a Gypsy dance  performed by young students. This composition was inspired by Rajasthani folk music.

The program certainly entertained and educated many who were attending an Indian dance program for the first time. It also showed the creative potential of Gauri Jog who has been practicing Kathak for the past 35 years. She emphasized on the fact that many parents expect their kids to go and perform on stage after enrolling in dance school for few months. “This is not correct. Dance is a journey and you can become a good dancer only by hard work, meditation and passion. I am so happy to see many of our students who follow this art form with passion and spend time learning new techniques instead of spending time on Facebook and computers,” she said.
Gauri Jog also teaches Kathak online to a large number of students even from India. She has produced some fine dance dramas such as Shakuntala, Fire – the Fiery Take, East Meets West and Jhansi Ki Rani, Olympics, Ramayana to name few. They have performed widely in North America and have certainly built a reputation for professionalism, creativity and hard work. This is perhaps the reason her shows are sold out as soon as they are announced.