All set to explore the excitement
- S D Desai

April 8, 2016

The Kadamb tree has a lyrically rich connotation and associations in art, particularly Kathak. And yet, watching Rupanshi Kashyap’s solo performance at Kumudini Lakhia’s dance centre Kadamb, the image of a Banyan tree with its luxuriant growth and benignity came to mind on the sweltering evening of April 1.  Its myriad shoots descend, fondly touch and clasp the soil from which it has sprung and grown over the years. The image emerged on recalling to mind that all Kumiben’s disciples, like Rupanshi, who have also been teaching at the centre and from time to time giving performances, are strongly and proudly rooted in the tradition. 

The youngest of them, Rupanshi gave her performance the modest title ‘Aamad’, the initial entry, celebrating her first major one-hour solo performance following over eleven years’ training at Kadamb. With easy familiarity and remarkable brilliance, she remains within Kathak’s enchanting traditional repertoire of basic elements.  What sets this dancer in her mid-twenties apart is a breath of spontaneity and verve in her dance rather than a mere hurried accuracy in elements like Tihai and Toda ending on the Sam. That flowerlike freshness is noticed in her Baant as well. In fact, she runs with remarkable confidence the whole gamut of common Kathak elements from Aamad to Jugalbandi.

Rupanshi concludes her performance with a simple but engaging abhinaya piece Ka karun dekho gaari det kaanhaai re in raag Kaafi.  Playful in mood and having a shared folklore appeal, the song has a teenage Radha in a sweetly mocking mood complain of the teenage Krishna’s pranks, childish as also adolescent. The words, telling in their simplicity and in visual interpretation, spontaneously receive warm applause from mature spectators and young dance learners alike as also from her guru Kumiben, who watched her appreciatively and, at the same time, closely enough to gauge the level of her attainment. “It’s like a test,” she had whispered initially.

Rupanshi, dedicated with passion to her pursuit of Kathak and attached to her guru, emerges as a promising dancer midway on the first leg of her never-ending journey, capable of exploring during the years to come all the excitement it offers and of facing up to its challenges. At the time offering many distractions and diversions today, she has all it takes to remain rooted to the pursuit keeping, like the nayika of her Geet, the Gagari steady on her head and maintaining the grace and dignity of her gait.  Greater richness of mukhaabhinaya is certainly not out of her reach.

Keeping her movement musically joyous at the performance were Joby Joy (tabla), Prahar Vora (vocal), Vanaraj Shastri (sarangi) and Narayan Bhanvariya (sitar).

Dr. S.D. Desai, a professor of English, has been a Performing Arts Critic for many years. Among the dance journals he has contributed to are Narthaki, Sruti,  Nartanam and Attendance. He guest-edited Attendance 2013 Special Issue. His books have been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy, Oxford University Press and Rupa. After 30 years with a national English daily, he is now a freelance art writer.