The three K’s of sophistication – Kathak, Kadamb and Kumudini Lakhia – came together seamlessly.

“Atah Kim,” posing the crucial query “Where do we go from here?,” presented by Kadamb of Ahmedabad, is one of the high water marks of Guru Kumudini Lakhia’s choreographic sophistication in Kathak. It was featured as part of the Kalakshetra Festival at Rukmini Arangam.

While nritta in this dance form does occupy a predominant place, Kumudini’s approach of paring each movement of Kathak technique into its micro units, re-assembling it to suit group aesthetics by transplanting movement context, creates a new dimension in the use of space.

Her hallmarks are the proud regal carriage of each dancer in the way the body is held and the gait, the exquisitely designed simple costume in pastels sans jewellery, with superb lighting (in this instance by Sharad Kulashreshta), and above all, the empty space and distance between dancers vibrating with a tension, not just between body and interacting body (without physical contact), but also in the space around which gets surcharged with energy.

Never going beyond the contours of prescribed movement grammar and technique, Kumudini still manages to invest each movement with a new feel. Right from the start, one saw Kumudini’s sense for group aesthetics, whether in ‘Aarambha’, where in the vilambit laya, movements of thata, or in ‘Upaj’ wherein improvisations are spun round ‘tatkar’ (foot- stomping rhythm) creating new patterns. The dancers, in a group or in cluster formations, made what a solo dancer conventionally does look very different.

An abrupt stop on the ‘sama’ or changing accented points in the tala cycle to weave new rhythmic designs, the slightest turn of the head, the ‘kalai’ (wrist) rotations of several raised hands, hands clapping in syncopated rhythm, all in synchronised perfection made for unusual movement/rhythm juxtapositions. The stunning impact earned spontaneous, unsolicited audience applause each time.

In ‘Chashme Masti Hai Jabi,’ Akash and Sanjukta, in a duet, evoked the erotic/devotional undertones generated by Sufi poetry – the final chakkars (pirouettes) leading one to a feel of the performers attaining a new level of consciousness – the spread of the frills in the umbrella cut of the ‘Kurta’ creating its own visual geometry.

In ‘Suvarna,’ the female dancers in a gold costume with the two male dancers in white, used freezes and jumps and the Gat Nikas technique to great effect.

‘Yugal’, with two of the most professional Kadamb dancers on stage, Prashant Shah and Sanjukta Sinha, was a highlight, the interaction between two dancers evoking a sensuous feel without any sahitya, ending with the excitement of ‘Na Dhin Dhin Na’ footwork in the end.

Vaishali Trivedi’s (one of the senior-most disciples of Kumudini) golden throated singing of ‘Naina Re Naina, Kaise Bin Rehna, Piyabin Mujhe Nahi Chaina’ followed by her abhinaya showing the nayika waiting in vain for her beloved, caught the mood through subtle underplayed emotion.

The totally coordinated, utterly light-footed leaps and jumps in the Durbari Tarana, with an exiting tatkar finale concluded the evening where Kathak movement, without losing its classical identity, evoked navarasa sans lyrics - all ‘Kumudini Kamaal’!

The music, equally imaginative, was by Kumudini’s music partner and composer for years – Atul Desai.