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The abundance of 'Rhythm & Joy'
- Manjari Sinha
Photos: Sanjit Debroy

May 22, 2022

'Rhythm & Joy', the annual day celebration of Asavari, the vibrantly active cultural institution of Kathak Guru Shovana Narayan was held on the 6th of May at the Triveni Kala Sangam with festive fervour. A celebration of the World Dance Day that falls on the 29th of April, this annual festival has always been organized in the first week of May to inculcate not just the awareness and interest in dance but also underlining the importance of dance in life. The vibrant evening of 'Rhythm & Joy' featured artistes of the Asavari Repertory including the disciples being trained at Asavari, right from the tender buds to the budding professionals, showcasing Asavari's efforts in nurturing talent and preserving and propagating the rich heritage of our classical performing arts.

Shovana Narayan welcomed and thanked all the supporters including the Ministry of Culture who helped them carry on despite the hardships during the last two challenging years of Covid, in holding online and offline programs and festivals. Their generous and unconditional support, she reiterated, has motivated Asavari since its inception in 1979, to nurture and train young talents in Kathak, vocal and instrumental music. A staunch believer in the Guru-Shishya Parampara, Shovana Narayan's endeavour has always been to impart not just the technique and details of Kathak but also to be alive to sensitivities and to spread the message of humanity and kindness. Some of her disciples have carved a niche for themselves in the world of performing arts including films.

Shovana also acknowledged the unstinted support received from her senior colleague and Guru-bhai Guru Tirath Ajmani and the late Jwala Prasad who helped her in taking classes and composing music for her dance productions. This support continues with Shakeel Ahmed Khan, Madho Prasad, Mahaveer Gangani, Komal Biswal, Meera Rawat, Shailaja Nalwade, and a host of other artistes including the make-up artist, photographers and videographers et al. She mourned the loss of the ace photographer Ashwani Chopra who had been with her since the eighties.

Rhythm & Joy

The evening opened with Ganesh Vandana "Pratham sumir Shri Ganesh" written by Swami Brahmananda and composed by Jwala Prasad in Chautaal. This was choreographed by Komal Biswas and performed by the adorable youngest duo Sehar Sodhi and Gauri Chhabra with admirable confidence and joy. Tarana in raga Charukesi set to teentaal was performed by the next age group with Pushti, Ananya, Reet, Aditi and Mahek who not just danced in sync but also did the padhant with tali and khali. This item was choreographed by Meera Rawat, who did the padhant also. Shovana shared that this Tarana was composed by Pt. Tej Prakash Tulsi for her in the year 1990.

'Ardhang' comprising both tandav and lasya ang, depicted the male and female energy, the two indivisible aspects co-existing in all spheres of life. Originally conceptualised, written, composed and sung by Pt Birju Maharaj, this item "Ardhang bhasm bhabhuti shobhit chandrama ut naval bendi bhaal hai" was offered as a tribute to the departed maestro, adapted by Meera for this evening and performed by Pushpa Sharma, Ruchi Arya and Shivanshika Singh.

Rhythm & Joy

Then came the challenging time cycle of nine and a half (9 ) beats in the 'Navamardh Taal' (Sadhe Nau Matra) choreographed and performed by the gifted young dancer Suparna Singh who impressed with her perfect sense of rhythm and effortless ease. Her superb performance of the traditional nritta ang of Kathak with Tode, Tukde, Paran, Chaakardaar and the Farmaishi Tihai etc in this challenging taal with a smiling face and pleasing demeanour was amazing. Suparna even did the padhant herself concluding the nritta segment with 11 pirouettes with elan. Her captivating abhinaya on a Sur-Pada "Chhando langar mori bainyan gaho na" composed by Jwala Prasad as a Bandishi Thumri, was mesmerizing till the very end when Madho Prasad got so inspired by her abhinaya that he went on and on in his concluding aalap and Suparna sustained it with her impromptu Upaj in her mesmerising abhinaya!

Rhythm & Joy

'Angikam' by the young ones under the guidance of Komal Biswal was delightful with the opening verse of Abhinaya Darpan. This was followed by a solo in Jhaptaal by Ishita Bhushan with Thaat, Amad, 'Dig dig thei ta thei, ta thei' and Anulom-Vilom Paran et al concluding with a Tihai comprising the bols of Jhaptaal itself. Ishita was joined by Suparna for a duet Tarana in the end. Nritya Abhyas under the guidance of Komal Biswal brought the youngest age group to subsequent ones reciting the "Asamyukta Hasta' Sanskrit shlokas and performing them as a rhythmic Kavitt in Kathak. The dancers were Sehar Sodhi, Srishti Jain, Lavanya Gupta, Anaaya Garg, Gauri Chhabra, Sonika Bhatnagar, Shruti Verma and Richa Pandit.

The finale brought forth the power of male energy climaxing with 'Tandava', the vigorous dance by the male dancers of the Asavari repertory. This was the item choreographed by Shovana Narayan in 2000 and has seen several generations of dancers performing it to thunderous applause. The dancers performing it this evening were Anil Kumar, Ashish Kathak, Praveen Parihar, Bhawani Gangani, Vishal Chouhan and Mayank Gangani.

Rhythm & Joy

The accompanying musicians for 'Rhythm & Joy' were Shakeel Ahmed Khan and Mohd Adil on tabla, Mahaveer Gangani - pakhawaj, Madho Prasad and Dinesh Parihar - vocal support, and Azhar Shakeel on the violin. The two acharyas helping Shovana in taking classes at Asavari, Komal Biswal and Meera Rawat, choreographed some of the items and did padhant too. The light design by Harish Jain and costumes designed by Seerat Narendra, Alka Jain and Beenu Rajpoot added to the grandeur of the performances.

Manjari Sinha
Manjari Sinha has an M.A. in Sanskrit and Music, and trained in vocal, tabla, sitar and Kathak dance. She has regular columns in national dailies as a music and dance critic.

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