Kathak Festival: A Revival of Dance

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It is no surprise that Indian classical dance, and kathak in particular, wields tremendous influence on the modern dance scene in India. However, classically trained artists such as Prachi Dixit, Artistic Director of Nupur Dance Academy, yearn for the traditional form’s elegance, lost and reduced in the chaotic world of Bollywood erotica. She wants to reassert the golden era of the dance style in its pure form.

Bollywood is amazing, confesses Dixit, but “our culture is alive in traditional dancing.” Kathak was the dance of devdasis who prayed through dance. The Mughuls transported the dancers from the temples to the courts to please the royals, who were mainly men. The term “mujra” aptly followed to describe the courtesan twist to kathak.
The trend followed with the British who moved the dancers from the courts to the theater, explained Dixit who contends that “it is not just a mujra dance where we are pleasing men. Rather what occurred thousands of years ago when dance was more than a recreation.”

Armed with a troupe of approximately 70 dancers and an aim to redefine the dance style from its “mediocre presentation in Indian movies,” the Torrance based dance company will be holding a two day Kathak Festival as part of its 10th anniversary.

Billed as Guru Kanhaiya Lal Dance Festival, homage to Dixit’s dance guru, the show will feature world renowned guest kathak artists from India accompanied by an equal caliber of instrumentalists who will showcase the different gharanas of kathak.

The guest artists at the festival rarely perform in the United States. It is a “big effort and a rare opportunity to join all of the best gharanas and artists together in one festival,” added Dixit.

Day One of the festival will feature Nupur dance students as well as “The Sword and the Flute,” a story of Kali and Krishna’s dark vision of the terrible and sublime in Hinduism. The piece is choreographed by Ahmedabad based couple, Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh, co-directed and co-choreographed by Dixit and Nupur Dance Academy’s assistant director Halil Alashar.

Shah and Parikh have not only been designated as cultural ambassadors in over thirty countries in the world but are also award-winning kathak dancers with repeat performances of their productions such as “Nar Nari,” a testament to the quality and appeal of their work.

Day Two of the festival, called “Gharana Utsav,” consists of duets by Shah and Parikh who will demonstrate the Lucknow gharana, Abhimanyu and Vidha Lal, a New Delhi based couple will exhibit the Jaipur style while Shambhavi Dandekar from the Bay Area will show the Benares gharana.

Vidha, according to Dixit, recently achieved a Guinness world record in 2011 for the most numbers of spins (103) in one minute.

Parimal Phadke from Pune will also provide a bharatanatyam piece while Dixit will present her solo, a Sufi item she choreographed as well as her new work which blends Teentaal, a 16 beats rhythm cycle and Jhaptaal, a 10 beats rhythm cycle.

Accompanying artists include Ajeet Pathak on tabla, Ranjeet Pathak and Saili Oak on vocals, Pankaj Mishra on sarangi, and Ronobir Lahiri on sitar.

Dixit, who has taught dance for the last thirty years between the opposing coasts, is a child artist who began her training by the young age of four specializing in the Jaipur gharana. The nonprofit academy which Dixit started in 2004, teaches kathak,  tabla, and Hindustani vocals.

Friday, October 17, 7 p.m., The Sword and the Flute, $25, group of 4 or more $20. Saturday, October 18, 6 p.m. Gharana Utsav, $30, group of 4 or more is $25.  James Armstrong Theater, 3330 Civic Center Dr. Torrance. (310) 781-7171, http://nupuracademyla.org/wordpress/upcoming/

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