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Atlanta, July 2012: Aparna's Dance academy hosted its 6th annual show- Kathak Utsav 2012 at the Alliance Theater, at Woodruff Art center, on May 26, 2012.
The event has occurred against odds. Three weeks before the Kathak Utsav, Academy’s director, Aparna Sharma gave birth to their son. Yet, she was with her students at the event directing all dance performances.
“As a principle”, said Aparna Sharma “I teach each class myself. Kathak is a very difficult art, and therefore, each child should get the best instructions from a qualified dance teacher only.” She has choreographed each dance, trained students, selected dresses/ costume, and carried out every details of organizing the big event throughout the nine months of pregnancy. In her speech, Aparna dedicated Kathak Utsav 2012 to students, parents and their family members who have supported her throughout these nine months with their love, affection and dedication to the academy.
For the past two years, Kathak Utsav’s main attractions were in house productions, Rituraj in 2010 and Mahishasur Mardini in 2011. This year, Aparna described the theme by saying three words- kathak, kathak and kathak. ” Whether the music is Indian classical, Kathak Bol, folk music or from Hindi film music, the dance is still based on one form, kathak” she emphasized.
Like last four years, Kamal Mohanty hosted the show. The show started with Ganesh Vandana, with beautiful Ganesh poses bringing small Ganeshas live on the stage. As the show progressed, performances on selected Hindustani classical music, and then folk music followed by filmy music demonstrated how these students have learned the art of kathak and expanded their horizons in a variety of dance forms.
Senior students of Kathak set a very high bar for kathak performances with their performance of Tarana, first on a composition on raag malkauns, and then on a composition of Birju Maharaj, Performance on Kathak bol, which are beyond the comprehension of most common persons, has left a lasting impression on the audience with the high quality of dance by these students. “As a choreographer”, said Aparna Sharma “my job is to make music visible to audience through dancers”. In their intricate and brilliant performances, dancers moved their hands gracefully, performed rapid but rhythmic tatkar (stamping of feet), and continue to change formation on stage rapidly. This fast, intricate performance, which appeared effortless by these very seasoned dancers, must require years of dedication to Kathak.
The junior students were equally talented. They performed on Tarana, and other kathak pieces on music composed by Aparna Sharma herself. On a contemporary composition by Brikram Ghosh, junior students’ performed demonstrated this ancient art is not just beautiful but contemporary.
Academy’s junior most students, one of them was only three and a half years old, stole the hearts and minds of the audience with cute bhav, hand movements, and tatkars on the song, “Chalka chalka” from movie Saathiya. It is amazing that these little ones did not miss a single move during their entire performance.
“My guruji, Shri Rajendra Ganagani”, said Aparna in her introduction “has directed me to keep Indian folk dances alive by promoting them, as some of the oldest folk dances are in danger of extinction.” Keeping her word, Aparna presented student performance on Rajasthan’s folk music. Beginner junior students performed on a song, “Ghoogra Jada de...” which shows a woman’s passion for dance. An adult beginner group performed on another Rajathani folk music from movie, Lamhe, on a song of Lata Mangeshkar and Illa Arun.
Several other combinations of Kathak, folk, and dance on Hindi film music followed. On a song, “Dhol Bajne Laga…” young performers took over one hundred Jaipur gharana style, chakkars (spins or pirouettes) in less than five minutes. In their performances, kathak dancers matched beat with beat, and audience joined them with their synchronized clapping with dance.
The final item was on a passionate, upbeat and beautiful song, “Dola re Dola...” from movie Devdas. Matching beat for beat, with fast tatkars, intricate and beautiful hand movements, junior students performed brilliantly on this upbeat music. Dancers were rapidly creating formations, dissolving it, and then creating a new formation. Even with over hundred chakkars (pirouettes) at dizzying speed, dancers performed with perfect timing, and synchronization. This scintillating performance brought audience to their feet, clapping and creating deafening but joyous noise.
True to her word, Aparna demonstrated that dance choreography on any given music is analogous to artist’s masterpiece, such as delicate carving on a marble stone. The beauty of the shape, intricacy of illustration, delicacy and subtlety, which is hard to miss and what makes the end result a masterpiece. For years, choreography in Kathak Utsav, and other academy’s performances around the city, has earned accolades from the audience of all background. Each performance on Hindustani music, folk or Hindi film was based on original and unique choreography. As promised by Aparna, Kathak was evident on each of the performances whether or not music was classical Hindustani.
Year after year, Kathak Utsav has been evolving into event with extremely high quality Kathak performances. Kathak and Kathak Utsav’s future looks bright with so much local support and interest among the Indian community.