Chakkars, Abhinaya and Held Breaths

Dance Divine

A spell-binding performance of Kathak by dancer Swati Wangoo Tiwari, disciple of well-known Kathak Guru Geetanjali Lal, mesmerised audiences at IIC recently.

Dancer : Swati Wangoo Tiwari

Dressed in peacock blue with sparkling jewels and dancing like a veteran, she won the hearts of each and everyone present.

Swati belongs to a family of musicians. Her grandmother was a radio artiste in Pakistan before Independence and her mother an accomplished Sitar player. Swati began dancing at the tender age of four and was trained in the style of the Jaipur gharana, which is known for its complex footwork, chakkars and complicated compositions in taal.

Ably accompanied by Amar Akhilesh Bhat on tabla, Vijay Sharma on the sitar and on sarangi Ghanshyam Sisodia and vocalist Shoaib Hasan, Swati began her recital with Shiv stuti depicting the Lord’s beauty in Nagendra Haray Trilochanaya meaning ‘the one who wears snakes and has three eyes’. She then portrayed his anger in a Tandava tantra Jata Tavi Gala Jala which refers to the presence of river Ganga in his tresses and poison in his throat.

Graceful in her movements, Wangoo moved on to the more technical aspects of Kathak and thrilled the audience with her footwork called Chalan. This was followed by the beautiful Thaat which are gestures and expressions of a dancer in different moods, and followed it up with Aamad - various styles of entering the stage. “Both Thaat and Aamad developed in the Mughal era when Kathakars ie Kathak dancers went to the Mughal courts after the destruction of their temples. They were created to appease the Mughal kings,” she explained.

After this, she performed Parmelus, compositions using only sounds from nature like a Cuckoo’s call, waterfall and the rustling of dry leaves; and then Parans, compositions which use only one instrument- pakhawaj. She ended the technical portion with the exciting Chakkars, also called Bedam tukdas which are to be performed without breathing. Though extremely difficult, she executed them with perfection.

Next, she performed on a Ganesh Kavit, an ode to the elephant God Gana Naam Ganapati Ganesh, and then on a Krishna Kavit called Krishna sakha mil gaye. Her moves were graceful, expressions exquisite and the portrayal of the deities entirely believable.

She then danced to two thumris on the occasion of Holi, Mohe Chhedho Na, depicting the love between Lord Krishna and Radha, and Baithi Soche Brijbala, on the grief of the Gopis after Krishna left Gokul. Her depiction of the dance of a peacock and Gopis on a swing were utterly beautiful. She ended her performance with a jugalbandi, where not only Swati but Akhilesh Bhat also got to display his skills on the tabla.

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