The performance by Isabelle Anna and group exemplified how Kathak movement lends itself to music of different genres.
It was Kathak of a different aura reflecting a new sensibility, its rhythmic intricacies hidden within a unique presentation without the popular flamboyance, in “Opus a Kath”, the evening sponsored by Alliance Francaise de Delhi at the Kamani. French born, Isabelle Anna, a disciple of Sharmila Sharma at Mandapa of Paris initially, followed by several years training under Jaikishan Maharaj at the Kathak Kendra, brought to bear on her choreography a personalised approach.
Fascinated by the variety of myth associated with the Bull or Taurus in different civilisations like Greece, Egypt, India, Persia, Mycene, Crete and so on, Isabelle's dance conceptualisation of flashing scenes in solo, duet, trio and quartet formations in Toros rested on an excellent selection of evocative music starting with the sonorous shehnai strains as seated dancers flashing the mudras symbolising the Bull established the theme. The same theme a couple of years back, visualised for a solo dancer by Isabelle, was elongated and adapted for a group presentation.
From a slow moving Sooryanamaskar by British Trinidadian dancer Quincy Charles (also a disciple of Jaikishan Maharaj), the reverence for the Bull, the solemn ritual accompanying the sacrifice of the animal, Durga driving her spear into the Bull demon — the item in various tones visually and in narrative emphasis and mood, presented infinite variety.
The four dancers, Isabelle, Charles, Aurelia Oudiette (trained at Birju Maharaj's Kalashram) and Bharatanatyam-trained Helene (included to replace a missing dancer with Kathak technique taught by Isabelle), moved with surefooted confidence and grace. Isabelle's neat choreography showed high creativity.
It was particularly encouraging to see Jaikishan Maharaj's unorthodox “Speak Kathak” as the curtain-raiser. In a kind of abstract chhed/chhad, a boy and girl (Isabelle and Charles) interact, the language of Kathak bols being their method of conversation with each other.
Jaikishan Maharaj's tabla, along with sarangi and pakhawaj (each instrumentalist seated singly on a platform on three sides of the rear of the stage) provided accompaniment in the punctuations with conventional nritta, with both dancers combining fluently.
But the broad timing through hitting a metal surface while the padhant exchange was on was so loud that most of the bols went unheard and the total impact of the item was diluted.
Isabelle's solo “My Bolero” interpreted in Kathak the famous Bolero by Ravel carrying the ethnic strains of Persian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Basque, Arabo-Andalusian and Flamenco dances (Kathak too carries unobtrusively some of these influences).
Supremely graceful, what one admired was the curtailed use of footwork, the chakkars of different types being more the preferred language of the dance choreography.
The dance compagnie Kaleidans Scope concluded with a quartet Trilogy, a pure abstract non-narrative item with a quaint rhythmic approach. It was based on three sequences: Polyphonica, written in different voices and melodies, and Monogia, where it was one melody right through, had movement exploring floor space and lines through crossovers.
The last section, Rhythmica, saw some authentic tatkar permutations, a nine-matra rhythmic refrain with tisra jati and chatusra jati permutations woven into it. And what a fine idea to have a final curtain call set to a lilting melody suiting Kathak movement grammar ideally! And what a handsome audience with the Alliance Francaise biradari in full attendance!
With its upright stance, rhythmic élan and pirouettes, it is amazing how smoothly Kathak movement lends itself to music of different genres.