Dancing in the Moghul Court

webmehta_oct._16_medium

webmehta_oct._16_medium

Chitresh Das Dance & Chhandam School of Kathak (CDDC) will present a spell-binding evening of tabla and kathak solos in “Moghul Court: A Celebration of Dance and Music of North India” at the fifth World Festival of Sacred Music (WFSM).

Tabla master Javad Ali Butah, student of renowned artist Anindo Chatterjee, and prolific kathak artist Rina Mehta, student of legendary artist and guru Chitresh Das, are joined on stage by Ramesh Mishra on sarangi, recipient of the prestigious Sangeet Nantak Akademi award, as well as renowned sitarist Jayanta Banerjee from Kolkata.

The evening will unfold and capture the mood of a forgotten time when Moghul nawabs and Hindu maharajas beckoned temple dancers, bards, and courtesans for lavish court entertainment. The show begins with an often-improvised tabla solo, accompanied by sarangi and sitar, mustering the mood for the much-anticipated kathak performance.

The performance soars to a crescendo as the visual narratives of kathak mingle with vocals by the dancer and the dynamic sounds of tabla, while the drum engages the rhythmic patterns of kathak footwork. The combination of rapid foot movement, pirouettes, and crisp stances called “thaat” is attributed to the Islamic influence on Indian dance in Moghul courts. Kathak dancer Mehta says she will also demonstrate Das’ groundbreaking collaboration, kathak yoga, which highlights the sophisticated mathematics and layers of musicality inherent in kathak dance.

Butah captures the essentiality of solo performances as these “allow mood and movement experience with regal dramatic openings and slow progressions towards the climactic portions of the art form,” he says. “This allows audiences to encounter a dynamic journey with live music and all of the musicians on stage.”

For Mehta, “Every Indian classical art form requires training in complementary arts—we are not just tabla players or dancers, we are all musicians in the full sense of the word as we are trained in additional instruments as well as the raga system.”

When asked how the selection of the theme accentuates WFSM’s vision of global harmony, Butah says, “The Moghul court time period in India ushered a cultural renaissance, a syncretic relationship where Hindu influence flourished with acceptance of diversity.”

Mehta adds, “This unique time period in history points to an exchange between the Islamic Sufi movement and the Hindu Bhakti movement where diverse view points were held without conflict. Art from both music and dance represents how religion and cultural traditions can exist side by side while enhancing one another.”

Inspired by the His Holiness the Dalai Lama 14 years ago, WFSM seeks to bridge communities while conveying peace and global solidarity through the elemental and sacrosanct mediums of music and dance. For 2011, the festival is a versatile assemblage of more than 832 local and international performers who cross cultural disparities to express and present a bevy of artistry in roughly 32 historic and public locales across Los Angeles.

WFSM is a project of Foundation for World Arts and UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance and will run Oct. 1 through Oct. 16. The four previous festival took place in 1999, 2002, 2005, and 2008.

Mehta, noted by the website exploredance.com as a “jaw dropping human wonder,” is founder and director of Chhandam’s newest branch in Los Angeles, and executive producer of UPAJ, a documentary on Chitresh Das’ inspiring collaboration with tap star Jason Samuels Smith. Since joining the Chitresh Das Dance Company in 2000, Mehta has performed in critically acclaimed productions such as “Pancha Jati,” “Shabd” and “Sita Haran.” She is the recipient of numerous awards, such as the Alliance for California Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant. Mehta has performed at prestigious venues and festivals nationally and in India and has collaborated with VidyA, the acclaimed Karnatik jazz ensemble, and many well-known artists. Mehta is trained in both the Lucknow and Jaipur gharana.

Javad Ali Butah, hailed by The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times as “flashy, spectacular” with “virtuosic form,” respectively, has had the honor of accompanying world-renowned artists such as Ustad Sultan Khan, Sri Alam Khan, and Sri Shakir Khan. He has performed in worldwide venues including the Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York, Yale University, Columbia University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Saptak Music Festival in Ahmedabad, India. Butah is trained in the Farukhabad and Lucknow gharana.

CDDC performs nationally and internationally to critical acclaim and has over 500 students around the world from San Francisco to Mumbai.

Additional South Asian performances at the festival include bansuri master Hariprasad Chaurasia in “Sacred Traditions: An Evening of Classical Indian Music” on Oct. 2, which was featured in India Currents’ September issue; “Sampurna: The Abundant Circle” on Oct. 9; and the Arohi Ensemble on Oct. 14 (check calendar for details).

Sunday, Oct. 16, 6-8 p.m. Barnsdall Gallery Theater, Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. $15 general; $10 students. Tickets:www.bgttix.com. (323) 644-6272. www.festivalofsacredmusic.org.

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