Kathak beyond boundaries
- Vijay Shanker, Mumbai
e-mail: vijaydance@gmail.com

February 5, 2013

Nupur Zankar Academy of Performing Arts and Research Centre presented a dance program entitled ‘Kathak Beyond Boundaries’ that practically demonstrated the point that Kathak, the classical dance style of northern India, has become universal and cannot be restricted to any geographical boundary. It was amazing to watch dancers from United Kingdom, Belgium and Canada performing Kathak with sincerity and involvement. The performance was presented by renowned Kathak dancer Shila Mehta along with her team of both regional and international disciples on 23rd December 2012 at the Veer Savarkar Auditorium in Mumbai.

The program commenced with an ode to guru, ‘Jo Guru krupa kare’ in which the disciple questions as to who is greater, the Guru or Govind. Ultimately the student realises that it is the guru who shows you the path to reach out to the supreme Govind. This was performed by Shila Mehta and her disciples in raag Darbari and taal adhyaa.  Tatya Gyan incorporated charini duha and chhand in Charini Kathak. The highlight of this presentation was the nine sentiments of Lord Shiva and the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu in Dashavatara in Ragamalika. It was interesting to watch the dramatic element being displayed each time the Lord appears in an incarnation of Rama or Krishna or other avatars to destroy evil and to protect mankind from calamity.

From left: Krystal Garib, Maya Sapera,
Guru Shila Mehta, Laura Neykens & Nikita Thakrar

From front: Krupa Tendulkar, Shruti Mehta,
Rekha Madkaikar, Neha Banerjee & Mayurika Nandi

Ali Mullah was an unusual number pertaining to Sufi culture as practiced in Egypt and Turkey. It combined the usage of pirouettes and of hair while dancing, in order to enhance the spiritual quality of dance and music. Besides the Krishna Ras, the innovative number Sable Longing combined contemporary dance with Kathak sensibilities wherein the dancer as lover suffers from separation and longs to meet her lover, to lyrics and composition by Richard Wagner.  Lakhuti Tarana (teen taal with raag Nanda) combined the element of Dandiya, usage of sticks, while dancing the Tarana to intricate rhythmic patterns which was refreshing for the audience. Khwab (dream) was an oriental dance combined with Kathak wherein the dancer is confused with both dreams and life. Choreographed for a documentary film ‘Beauty's Doom,’ it interpreted the life story of a young Canadian girl.

Kathak swaroop was presented by guest artiste Sudeshna Maulik from Canada. Sudeshna's performance was marked by complete command over intricate rhythmic patterns and professional ease which was a reflection of the training she has received from great masters like Pt Birju Maharaj and Kumudini Lakhia. The program concluded with the display of intricate footwork by the entire team of dancers. The disciples who performed were Rekha, Shruti, Neha, Richa, Krupa, Mayurika, Mansi, Spriha, Dhanvi, Shoba, Alpana, Anushka, Idrisha, Parina Shraddha, Dimple, Lata, Kavya, Saloni and Sadia and the overseas dancers were Nikita Takrar (UK), Krystal Kiran Garib (Canada), Maya Sapera (Belgium) and Laura Neyskens (Belgium). It is interesting to note that although these dancers from different countries have been initially trained in various styles, they have absorbed the Kathak style to quite a good extent for which the entire credit goes to their mentor Shila Mehta.

Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.