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The Forgotten Empress from Farah Yasmeen Shaikh—formerly of Chitresh Das Dance Company and now founder of Noorani Dance—will come to two Bay Area stages; San Jose at the end of February and Z Space at the beginning of March. These performances are not only timely and topical because of the subject matter, but arrive just as the world celebrates International Women’s Day, which this year occurs on Sunday March 8.


“The themes are timeless,” says Shaikh, “love, ego, struggle for power, betrayal by the ones you hold closest, loss of loved ones, and a longing desire for something different other than what fate has dictated to you as one’s own life.”

Empress Noor Jahan was a woman who while possessing both a deep compassion and sensitivity toward others, paired these attributes with an  intelligent and strategic mind. The possessor of what Shaikh describes as a “a rare and intoxicating beauty,” Noor Jahan was willing to use those attributes in order to achieve her own ends, ends that included marriage and motherhood as a means to pursuing power and authority at the state level.

This solo Kathak performance, a discipline that traces its development to the 16th century, and is considered one of eight forms of Indian classical dance will feature Shaikh portraying all the characters, both male and female. Kathak comes from the Sanskrit word “katha” which means “story,” and the term Kathak is taken to mean “that which tells a story.”

“Kathak offers both the dancer and the audience an opportunity to go on an visually rhythmic journey of emotions,” says Shaikh. “It’s a form that asks the performer to not only to dance highly technical compositions and combinations, but also act out emotionally charged scenes as well.”

The Forgotten Empress is woven together from an original script written by acclaimed Playwright and Director, Matthew Spangler (who also adapted Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner for theater). The live music for the evening is directed and will be performed by rising tabla artist, Salar Nader, who will be joined on stage by: Ben Kunin on sarod; Raaginder Singh Momi on violin; Deepti Warrier on vocals; Sukanya Chakrabarti (San Jose) and Radhika Rao (San Francisco) as the actor/narrator.

The San Francisco performances, which occur in the days just prior to International Women’s Day, will feature a special guest, historian and author Ruby Lal, who wrote a definitive biography on the subject Empress: Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, who will give a pre-show talk as well as a reading, with book sales and signing to follow.

What: The Forgotten Empress, Co-Presented by Communication Studies at SJSU
When: Feb 28 & Saturday, Feb 29 at 7:30pm
Where: Hammer Theatre Center at San Jose University
Tickets: Tickets: $35 / $45 / $60 at www.nooranidance.com 

What: The Forgotten Empress, Co-Presented by Z Space & Litquake
When: Thursday, March 5 and Friday March 6 at 7:30 pm
Where: Z Space, 450 Florida Street San Francisco 94114
Tickets: Tickets: $35 / $45 / $60 at www.nooranidance.com 

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