Bringing to the city a unique dance performance that weaves together two narratives, Navtej Johar talked about the evolution of Indian classical dances and his journey from theatre to bharatanatyam.
"Legends attribute that of all the performing arts, the Indian classical dance is the most ancient, said to be closely bound with religion and philosophy. But it is imperative that the perpetual change in the taste of the milieu and lifestyle would have an influence on its original concepts, thematic contents, forms and styles of presentation," maintains Navtej, who was born and brought up in Chandigarh.
As he performed his latest dance theatre spectacle, Charumathi Claire Singh, at Tagore Theatre in the city on August 1, the dance maestro called it a milestone.
Contrary to the conventional rigid code of presenting some bharatanatyam dance pieces such as Alarippu, Jatiswaram, Sabdam and Varnam, Navtej escaped conservative rigidity in Charumathi Claire Singh, as he weaved the dance drama with endless thought-provoking moves and improvisations.
With elements of music, drama, poetry and literature pervasive therein, dancers brought alive the psyche of two maids who admire their 'madam' and love to emulate her living style, but are at the same time conspiring to kill her. The second narrative, on the contrary, reflected the deep spirituality and morality of 'Devadasis', finding solace in serving God and his people through their skills of dance.
This amalgamation of theatre and dance wasn't difficult for Navtej, who was working with theatre thespian GS Channi, until his mind revolted for the compelling charm of bharatnatyam after watching a dance performance at the PGI auditorium in 1980. Navtej then learnt and imbibed the nuances of the traditional dance form under the tutelage of Rukmini Arundale, at her institute, Kalakshetra.
Navtej later went on to study at the department of performance studies at New York University.
The maestro has since performed at prestigious events the world over, worked extensively with prominent choreographers and produced 10 prestigious choreographic spectacles under the aegis of his Abhyas Trust.
Navtej was also the performance director of the Commonwealth Parade for the Queen's Golden Jubilee Celebrations in London, in June 2002.