‘Pratham' marked the launch of the city's first Kathak school, Jigyasa Giri's Devaniya.

The first Kathak dance school in Chennai, Devaniya, founded by dancer Jigyasa Giri, was formally launched with ‘Pratham' on Sunday.

Devaniya is a division of Pritya, an organisation that promotes Indian culture through cookbooks, translations of scriptures and dance.

‘Pratham' was a colourful debut by the ensemble cast of 19 students. They presented a well-coordinated tableau of beautiful images and seamless transitions couched within the Kathak repertoire. The nritta piece or ‘Taal aur lay ki uthan' in teen taal opened to the beautiful imagery of a lotus drenched in misty blue light unfolding petal by petal to the evocative strains of the Shanti mantra ‘Poornamadah.' (an Aurobindo Ashram recording). This piece was the shop-stopper as a slow vilambit picked up speed in the thodas, thukdas and thihais to reach the fast drut laay in the standing footwork or tatkar.

Dancers in sync

The dynamic movement choreography was the most impressive part of the presentation -- the entries, the exits and the group formations were graceful and well-timed. With a band of well-synchronised dancers and a bright costume (Sunanda Jain) and overhead city lights (Eashwar Srikumar), the effect was often ethereal.

The jugalbandhi in the final tatkar in Madhya and drut laay between two groups facing each other, with footwork alternating on the heels and toes was perhaps the most interesting vis-a-vis the rhythmic component. This piece was inspired by the Lucknow gharana and dedicated to Jigyasa's guru Dr. Maya Rao.Jigyasa performed a thumri on longing for the beloved in ‘Jao Sakhi Mose Karo Na Raar' (Sohini, teen taal).

The abhinaya composition was dedicated to the dancer's first guru, Krishna Kumar Dharwar of the Benaras Gharana. The layering in the choreography in which two dancers in cameo roles re-capture the romance of the past was an interesting way of reinforcing the desolate present.

Dance critic and author Ashish Khokkar who presided over the debut performance, urged the rasikas present to ‘support the arts and support Young India!' He was intrigued by a North Indian dance form storming the bastion of Bharatanatyam and wanted to study this phenomenon further. Singer Surekha Kothari also spoke on the occasion.