Kathak Maestro Pt Charka’s Latest Fusion Baby
by Bhasyam G Iyengar, New York
It was great fusion time in Florida, last spring at Broward County Auditorium and Florida Atlantic University. A hitherto untried fusion experiment of Kathak, the classical Indian Dance and Flamenco, the Spanish solo dance which, adheres to live music and strict rhythmical structure was carved out to the delight of a knowledgeable audience. Titled DHARMABHUMI, the experimental production now paves way for unique fusion experiments, which open up new vistas for the innovative and creative breed of dancers. The show was reviewed by Ms Lane Gallichio, staff writer of The College Sun magazine, vide issue dt 5.30.02,D pointing out the dazzling effect of the performances of Pt Charka in the role of Dharma, Celia Clara and Romani Kallicharan in the roles of Maya and Bhumi respectively.
Dharmabhumi revolves around the values of Virtue, Tolerance and Passion. The basic concept is a sequel to a famous episode of Ramayana, the Indian classic, which portrays the noble warrior King Rama and his glorious wife Sita who is an eternal symbol of tolerance. The episode has a third character Shurpanakha, sister of the demon king Ravana, and she is symbolic of Passion, one of the most conquering emotions of human life. Dharma of the play represents Rama, while Bhumi and Maya represent Sita and Shurpanakha respectively. The alternate names chosen for the three characters are suggestive of the values depicted by the original roles in tune with Ramayana. Putting it succinctly, Dharma sends the message of Virtue, Bhumi of Tolerance and Maya of Passion. Kathak, the Indian classical dance, which emphasizes the story telling aspect of dance leaning more on grace and devotion is the medium for Dharma and Bhumi while Flamenco has been chosen for Maya as it is very powerful in portraying passion. It is in this choice of the schools of dance, Pt Charka’s instinctive brilliance as a choreographer draws immediate attention. Thus the fusion experiment of classical Indian Kathak and passionate Spanish Flamenco turns out to be a very refreshing experiment.
Pt Charka, in his portrayal of Dharma, displays all the ingredients of Kathak dance complete with hypnotic co-ordination of the movements of arms, hands and legs coupled with breath-taking gesticulations. In his lead role of Dharma, he has effectively translated the aura of Virtue and Nobility of the character serenely and sedately. Kathak’s basic story-telling trait finds full scope bringing the well-integrated talents of dance and choreography of Pt Charka to the core. The movements of the body signify the elements of spirit. The physical culminates in the meta-physical. Throwing himself in to a trance Pt. charka succeeds in carrying the audience also into a trance. Living in his role he radiates the essence of the character and that is what Kathak is all about. Romanee Kalicharran in her supporting role of Bhumi is equally revealing and turns out to be an able co-artiste to her Guru. Matching the guru’s serenity and austerity step to step, the young and beautiful student does full justice to her supporting role of Bhumi. As the duo of guru and student dances, the harmony between the two roles makes an effortless presence and tranquillity surrounds the atmosphere in unison with the Virtue of Dharma and Tolerance of Bhumi. The costumes add on to the effect. Bhumi’s devotion to Dharma and Dharma’s commitment to Bhumi make a natural presence. Sublime Kathak at work, displaying the eternal bond between Prakruthi and Purush. A state of total bliss prevails clearing the contours of ordinariness. Not heady, simply serene.
Enter the vivacious Celia Clara the bountiful Flamenco dancer, Maya, personifying Passion looms larger than life, electrifying the atmosphere with her sheer seductive beauty, at once depicting the human vulnerability to Passion. Pumped up desire, a longing to experience the lust, an itch to ride over the pinnacle of pleasure, an excited attempt to a passionate living - the Flamenco brings every thing in a sudden rush. Yet another electrifying atmosphere, Celia dazzles and makes every one ecstatic. Maya is there and real. Taps of the feet send the hearts racing. For a moment Maya overwhelms everyone. But then Virtue of Dharma and Tolerance of Bhumi ultimately prevail as they keep dancing around Maya and slowly and surely take her over. Dharma prevails over Maya through his cherished value of Virtue and Bhumi succeeds in overpowering Maya through her eternal Tolerance. Passion ultimately retracts. This bold Indian / Spanish fusion succeeds in driving this message, and the chosen medium of dance reaches hitherto unknown corners, translating abstract concepts into workable and effective modes.
Pt Satya Narayana Charka is director, East-West School of Dance, New York. Shows were sponsored by The Association of Performing Arts of India and SPICE, Florida Atlantic University, Florida.
A cultural mission well accomplished.