When boundaries stretched

Kathak was given a contemporary touch, while folk showcased variety

January 25, 2018 02:54 pm | Updated 02:54 pm IST

 ‘Between 2 Beats’, a Kathak performance presented by Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh

‘Between 2 Beats’, a Kathak performance presented by Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh

Akin to dance, life has various rasas. “We aim to explore expressions through face, body language, rhythmic music and words,” says Maulik Shah, Kathak exponent. Anart Foundation, spearheaded by Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh, presented a thematic performance titled ‘Vismay’ and ‘Between 2 Beats’ at the Tata Theatre of NCPA.

From the word go, it was a flow of joy, grace and rhythm. The dancers stood in a spot of light, hands folded and then danced to spirited bols . They sat in formations, stood in shadows, eyes closed, adding meaning to music. Swaying arms, moving anti-clockwise, they went around the stage in speedy chakkars, their anarkalis billowing. The men created interesting geometric formations, and took the viewers along in rocking revelry.

“Vismay is about revealing secrets that dance holds; marvelling at mysteries that life offers. Dance constantly astounds and amazes us by the immense aesthetic beauty of wonder that it possesses. We want to convey this wonderment to the audience,” explains Maulik Shah.

Teasing (parihas), the coy brij bala, fiesty kaal maha kaal, every sequence was essentially emotional and every emotion was tangible.

There were new movements and rhythm patterns with minimum use of ‘sahitya’. “We aim to stretch the boundaries, not break or add new forms; contemporise traditional elements in a modern context,” says Shah. They call it neo-classical.

The second segment, ‘Between 2 Beats,’ was a fusion of percussion. Cajon, a Cuban percussion instrument that looked like a casual seating stool, was played by Nishant Mehta. Mann, a copper pot, was played by Maulik Shah. Adapted from the ancient Gujarati tradition of story-telling called Mannbhatt, the pot had a sonorous sound. The rings on his fingers facilitated Shah in producing melodic, metallic sounds to which dancers, led by Ishira, lent a new dimension. Rising and reducing beats of the percussion in layered patterns of tapping feet and clapping hands, enhanced by audience participation, led to a crescendo.

Creative choreography by Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh, music by Neeraj Parikh, Nishant and Jignesh, light effects by Parth Raval created visual poetry.

“We want to create a cohesive sphere of nritta and nritya where dance, as a whole, flows in rivulets, creating linear and circular patterns,” adds Ishira.

Mesmerising folk dances

‘Anekta mein Ekta,’ Unity in Diversity was the central idea of the folk dances presented by Nrityanjali led by the 70-year-old Tushar Guha. “To me dance is an expression of self,” says Dr. Guha. Trained in Kathak (under legendary guru Lacchu Maharaj) and basics of Bharatanatyam, Manipuri and Kathakali, he finds equal joy in performing both classical and folk dance forms.

 A folk performance by Tushar Guha’s Nrityanjali

A folk performance by Tushar Guha’s Nrityanjali

“After learning classical (art) for years, my quest for knowing my country led to my visits across India. Dance naturally became my focal point as a symbol of our tradition and culture. Folk dances of different provinces were mesmerising,” says Guha.

The event began with the serenity of Kai kotti kali with women in red and off-white mundu, hair bedecked in jasmine strands, moving in rhythmic grace.

Gypsy kummi of Tamil Nadu was the announcement but it turned out to be Kolattam by male dancers in provincial lungi and women in saris with pleats tucked behind, so full of energy and enjoyment. Popular ‘Rangabati’ was chosen to represent Sambalpuri dance of Odisha.

Garba from Gujarat had girls clad in glamorous ghagra choli and men in frock type kurtas with frills and dhoti. Marwari dance from Rajasthan depicted women relaxing in the courtyard, swinging to music, doing phugdi, ghoomer, in alternating slow and fast movements to the famous ‘Pallo latke’ song. North was represented not by the usual and vigorous Punjabi bhangda, but by the Garhwali dance of Uttarakhand, which had lively costumes.

The Baul dance of Bengal had Guha in the centre moving with measured pace. Maharashtra boasts of many folk forms but it was ballya that was chosen.

Many of the dancers, such as Anonna Guha, Girish Dalvi, Nitasha, Anilkumar Singh, are trained in the classical idioms like Kathak and Bharatanatyam. Guha’s classical training coupled with 32 years of research in dance forms of various provinces has given him expertise in the field.

The concluding piece highlighted the oneness of ‘Incredible India’ with the audience rising in appreciative unison.

Guha regrets that folk dance is not accorded the acknowledgement or adulation it deserves. “Folk dances are not treated at par with classical. We need to showcase this aesthetic and classy form to the world,” he says.

NCPA had done justice to Indian folk art by hosting the event at their prestigious venue for all to see and cherish.

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