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History of Unforgetting: Anamica presents an unforgettable evening of kathak

August 2007
History of Unforgetting: Anamica presents an unforgettable evening of kathak

Anamica (Association for a North American Mosaic of Indian Classical Arts), a young non-profit organization that is fast gaining reputation for its quality and caliber of presentations of Indian classical dance, this year chose to bring ‘History of Unforgetting in the Kathak Style' to Atlanta.

Kathak is one of the six major classical dance forms of India and through song, dance and mime, rhythmic complex footwork, and spinning, it depicts epic poems and myths in a dramatic form. It focuses especially on the great Indian epics like the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas of Sanskrit literature. "We chose Kathak because we felt this is a dance form that is really appreciated by the Atlanta community, and we chose the works of Kumudini Lakhia because of her genius in combining the modern with the traditional, making it a fresh presentation each time," said Gita Maheshwaran. "We also wanted to show that group presentations in Kathak could be showcased in some very unique ways. In fact so many students and dance lovers came back stage and told me that they never knew these kinds of presentations even existed."

On 24th June a few key students of the legendary danseuse, Kumudhini Lakhia, came together at the Roswell Cultural Arts center in Atlanta, to showcase some amazing pieces. According to many of her students, Lakhia has always encouraged them to explore their own dimensions and translate them into unique self expressions and then incorporate them in dance. The two pieces choreographed by Kumudini Lakhia were Radha Raman and her very well known ballet Yugal.

Yugal which was evidently composed in the late 70s retains its beauty, freshness and allure to this day. The romantic duet was beautifully bought to life by Parul and Prashant Shah. The synchronized movements, the exquisite footwork and the vigor and free flow of emotions and body language made this an outstanding piece. It was amazing how the two created visual after visual of being one through just their dance and gestures, without touching. Prashant's foot work was immaculate, powerful and full of grace. Parul complemented him perfectly and that is why it was such a mellifluous act, each movement, each expression, and footwork synchronizing seamlessly.

Radha Raman was a visual delight as dancers Pallavi Raisurna, Reena Shah and Ammar Vandal explored the nuances of Shringar rasa fragrant with Bhakti bhava, immortalizing the love of Radha for Lord Krishna before a dazzled audience.

Parul Shah is not just a dancer par excellence, she seamlessly bridged the gap between Indian and western influences as she presented ‘Precious Cracked Earth' along with Prashant Shah, Reena Shah and Ammar Vandal. The presentation choreographed by Parul, captured the essence of Indian village women, and the hustle and bustle of their daily life. The sinewy walk, the chores, the visuals of the women washing the fish, carrying water pots, their rustic beauty captured in their sun kissed faces, the earthy colors of their garment and almost overpowering sensation of seeing and inhaling the scent of Indian soil was a delight to watch.

The show began with the silhouette of these women in a vision of languid, earthy postures on an illuminated screen that formed the backdrop of the stage. Covering the gamut of love and life, the very essence of what life means for these tireless women, as they work, play and frolic was brought on stage in a contemporary presentation that captured ballet like movements interlinking them with traditional Kathak steps.

The haunting finale, ‘History of Unforgetting,' combined emotion and mime to depict the plight of the Devadasis who were the exponents of temple dances. And yet as they strove to preserve the rich cultural heritage, they were ill treated and looked down upon. It speaks volumes about the power and deep impact of these art forms that they still exist. It is perhaps a tribute to those artists who pursued these classical forms in spite of condemnation and stigma.

This year Anamica received the support of the Georgia Council for the Arts, and founders, Gita Maheshwaran and Manoj Kumar, put in their personal money to fund the production. Perhaps the most disappointing thing was the poor turn out for an event of this caliber. To learn more about Anamica, please visit www.anamica.org

~Kavita Chhibber

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