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Kathak Utsav 2011 by Aparna's Dance Academy

July 2011
Kathak Utsav 2011 by Aparna's Dance Academy

Aparna's Dance Academy hosted its 5th annual show, Kathak Utsav 2011, at the Alliance Theater, Woodruff Arts Center, on May 21, 2011.

This year, Kamal Mohanty again hosted the show, which began with Ganesh Vandana—beautiful Ganesh poses bringing small Ganeshas to life on stage. One parent said she had tears in her eyes watching her little daughter perform Ganesha. Kathak pieces followed, then dances to folk and filmi music by the same students.

The centerpiece of the program, Mahishasur Mardini, took the audience into the mythical roots of Indian culture. Beautifully narrated in Hindi and performed in Kathak, the Kathakar (Kathak dancers) told the story of Goddess Durga. The demon Mahishasur, through years of praying, received a blessing from Lord Brahma that no man or God could kill him—but once gaining this power he started ravaging the whole world and killing people, and finally he wanted to uproot the Gods, too.

To kill Mahishasur, Bramha, Vishnu and Mahesh created Shakti, of supreme power, called Maha Durga. Devi Durga kills Mahishasur and therefore she is also called Mahishasur Mardini (destroyer of Mahishasur). Devi Durga created another form, Devi Kali to kill the demon Raktabeej. We still celebrate this victory over demons during Navaratri, or 9 nights, when Hindus' pray and perform the famous ras garba dance.

Forty-five performers presented this forty minute show. Beautiful music and costumes, background that gelled into the stage performance, light effects, and above all the Kathak performance by Aparna's students resulted in a performance that left the audience spellbound. In their makeup, the mythical characters, Indra, Durga, Mahishasur, Kali, demons and devtas seemed to come alive on the stage. Aparna Sharma worked for over a month in India with musicians and artists to capture her imagination in the narration and music.

In their Kathak-Flamenco jugalbandi, Aparna Sharma and Cara Wheeler showed the historical connection between the dance forms. Kamal Mohanty explained: Dance is an expression of human emotion. Music and dance know no boundaries. They originate, merge, and bring about new forms. Nearly 600 years ago (in 1447), Gypsies from Punjab arrived in Spain. Over the years, the Gypsies combined the Kathak brought from India with the culture and music that the Moors had brought to Spain earlier, and a new Gypsy dance was born, Flamenco. In this jugalbandi, first each performed their own dance form, and then Aparna performed Flamenco while Cara performed Kathak. The wonder of this historical connection was very clear in the steps and the rhythm of their performances, and had the capacity audience respond with gusto.

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