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Kathak artist Anjani Ambegaokar, Artistic Director of Sundar Kala Kendra Foundation along with Amrapali Ambegaokar, a successful crossover artist, and choreographer are banding together and buoying kathak once again to artistic excellence with their upcoming production entitled “Pancha Kathak Nritya Darshan.” The foundation received partial funding through an Invitational Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a notable honor for the Ambegaokars.

The show aims to feature and integrate sights and sounds of kathak via solos, duets and group performances of five dancers, Stuti Mandal, Divya Patil, Sourabhi Sen, Savita Bal and Nikita Govind. Each dancer varies in background, style and level of training.  The Ambegaokars meticulously handpicked each dancer while choosing not to limit themselves “just to showcase the best dancer.”

Breaking boundaries is a familial motto and true to its intent, the mother-daughter team pushed boundaries, in particular each dancer’s boundary by basing selection on many intrinsic merits such as dedication levels, to not only expose the individual’s forte, but to also advance each artist to new heights.

As an example, says Anjani Ambegaokar, University of California Berkeley student Patil showed potential for brilliant footwork, inherent to the kathak art form and hence has mastered double and triple turns on one foot against complex musical compositions.

Telecom specialist, Sen’s ease of abhinaya or facial expressions magnifies dramatic and coy glances adding fluidity to the transcendental romance in the Radha Krishna dance drama.

School teacher Bal’s profound knowledge of kathak will be extended to intricate and complex rituals such as Radha adorning herself with 16 decorations.

The live musical ensemble, an assured treat for the audience, includes familiar artists such as Ramesh Kumar (table) and Ramesh Mishra (sarangi). Vocalist Shabornee Dasgupta will also join the ensemble.

The idea for the upcoming show was born after Anjani Ambegaokar, received a call from NEA, which offered her foundation an invitational grant. Such grants are made solely at the discretion of NEA members.

The grant matches $10,000 for an equivalent amount or more raised by the artist for such a show. This is the third invitational award along with five other awards from NEA received by the foundation. Grant awards from numerous sources such as the City of Los Angeles, the California Art Council and many more have also been received by the foundation.

Anjani Ambegaokar,  also had the honor of becoming the first East Indian dancer to receive the National Heritage Fellowship (NHF) in 2004. NHF is a lifetime honor presented to master folk and traditional artists from NEA.  Joining the ranks of esteemed artists such as Zakir Hussain and Ali Akbar Khan for such an award “humbled me as it is one of those incredible events that you are shocked about” says Anjani.

Her daughter Amrapali has mastered kathak, played a principal character in Cirque du Soleil (“Dralion”) and is a full time actress with leading roles on films such as “American Blend” and “Extra Ordinary Barry” along with appearances on television.n

Saturday, September 15. 7 p.m. Sophia B. Clarke Theater. Mt. St. Antonio College, 1100 N. Grant Ave, Walnut. Tickets: $25, $20. (909) 468-9681, sundarkalakendra@aol.com,  www.sundarkalakendra.org.

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