The twirls and the spins

The twirls and  the spins

It is no secret that Pandit Birju Maharaj has changed how one views and appreciates kathak. With graceful and lithe moves, he has never failed to awe his audience. So it doesn’t come as a surprise when he was handed the ‘Shristi National Award for Dance’ recently.

The award was presented as part of the ‘Shristi Vishwa Nrithya Utsav 2015’ in association with Shristi Centre of Performing Arts and Institute of Dance Therapy. The programme, was held at Ambedkar Bhavan. The director of the dance institute, AV Sathyanarayana, oversaw the whole event.

The award ceremony was last on the itinerary but the audience had a treat with various performances, including kathak and bharathanatyam pieces. Students of Kalashram, Delhi were received with a resounding round of applause for their performance.
Renowned kathak dancer Saswati Sen began the show. A disciple of the Pandit for the past 45 years, she moved with grace and skill that comes with having trained under a master for so many years.

She was followed by Mamta Maharaj, daughter of the Pandit, who was well-appreciated for her fine footwork and elegance. Shristi Centre of Performing Arts and Institute of Dance Therapy also played its part by performing a contemporary piece called ‘Mahan Buddha’, on the life of Buddha.It was led by AV Sathyanarayana.

It started with the war between kings Ashoka and Kalinga, and went on to describe Buddha’s royal birth, his life as a prince and how he left his city after witnessing the terrible state of humans. It ended with him finding salvation. The students had colourful costumes and represented the story with ease. There was also an audio-visual component to it, with a projector displaying various backgrounds.

The award to Birju Maharaj was presented by the Governor of Karnataka, Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, and the Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers, Ananth Kumar. The Governor commented how the Pandit deserves this award as he is making
efforts to preserve our culture.

The highlight of the evening was the performance by Pandit Birju Maharaj himself. Although it didn’t last too long, the 76-year-old had the audience on their feet. In between each piece, he provided explanations and said that music and rhythm is there everywhere.

He took examples of how sometimes, people get lazy to go out of the house, a
bird feeding its chicks, stories from the Mahabharatha and more. His ‘gungroos’ chimed as his feet moved with incredible speed and precision.

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