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Creativity in kathak

The duo’s innovative themes and choreographies explore the peripheries of kathak. It has notably been a mixed bag of traditional literature with contemporary takes, or offbeat stories from different cultures.
Last Updated : 20 April 2019, 19:30 IST
Last Updated : 20 April 2019, 19:30 IST

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Tandava and lasya, the two pillars of Indian dance, represent Shiva’s vigour and Parvathi’s grace. This duality has often been brought to the stage by the likes of the Dhananjayans and the Reddys, and it’s what comes to mind as one witnesses Hari and Chethana rendering kathak.

Their mastery over both nritta (pure dance) and nritya (abhinaya dance) manifests a closely knit canvas of creativity. Partners on and off stage, their chemistry and devotion to the art form have often left the audience in a state of awe. Says Hari, “It was a blissful and spiritual journey right from when I began my dance. I think the environment was constantly spiritual.”

When it began

Initiated to kathak by Guru Geethanjali Lal, grounded by Bharathi Vittal and Vaibhavi Joshipura, and finally sculpted by Kumudini Lakhia, Hari also trained under Guru Maya Raoi at Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography.

Born and raised in Bengaluru, they went on to find their own dance school in 1996 — Noopur Performing Arts Centre. Noopur is devoted to the cause of ‘spiritual dance’ that embodies the significance of pure, expressional and devotional kathak, a blend of the artistic traditions of the North and the cultural traditions of the South.

Chethana’s journey, he says, has been the manifestation of his own childhood fantasies through which he was able to connect to the world only she could experience.

It was destiny that brought them together. “Our gurus widened our process of experiencing dance to rethink and work on the nuances and aesthetics of kathak, which we have developed further through our choreographies,” says Chethana.

To their credit, the duo has performed in India and abroad.

They have performed in the presence of the King of Ipoh — Malaysia. Her Royal Highness Princess of Kuwait, Princess of Jordan, His Royal Highness of Dubai, at Burj Al-Arab. They are officially the first kathak dance couple with the credit of performing in Saudi Arabia. Hari and Chethana have also been featured in the Kannada film Parva, directed by Sunil Kumar Desai. Recently they acted and choreographed in a historical Malayalam film Makaramanju, based on the life history of Raja Ravi Verma, directed by Lenin Rajendran.

At the recent Mahashivaratri celebrations organised by Natya Tarangini, their presentation began with a shloka, ‘Kasturi Tilakam’ from Sri Krishna Karnamrutham, a string of bhakti-laden poems offered at the lord’s feet. This was followed by pure dance elements such as Tukudas Tihais and Ladi. A refreshing jugalbandi based on dialogues between the footwork of the dancers and the percussionist followed, ending with a sargam in Raaga Malhar that expressed the happiness during the monsoons.

With a difference

The duo’s innovative themes and choreographies explore the peripheries of kathak. It has notably been a mixed bag of traditional literatures with contemporary takes, or offbeat stories from different cultures. Hari and Chethana base their choreographies on themes like Vedic literature, Anamacharya krithis, the story of Kalidasa’s Abhijnanashaktunathala, Mirza Ghalib’s Hazaron Qhwahishen, Swathi Thirunal’s Kritis, Valmiki’s Ramayana and Bali Yatra to name a few.

They claim it’s about the time one spends learning and introspecting about the dance. “Working with Leo Spreksel, the Dutch choreographer, we produced works like Dance Macabre, Isha, Maya, Full Moon etc. I think it boils down to how our gurus approached dance, wherein there was no limit to creativity. Our yearning to learn the art has connected us to many senior gurus in other dance forms as well. ” Together, they have trained over 500 children for their productions as well.

“Yes, Indian classical dance is in a good place. But one feels the need for more awareness,” says Hari.

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Published 20 April 2019, 19:30 IST

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