Watch a Kathak troupe perform a five-stanza classic from the 1850s
It’s a poem about Krishna, come to life, choreographed by Padma Bhushan Kumudini Lakhia.
Watch a poem come to life on Saturday. Padma Bhushan Kathak exponent Kumudini Lakhia and her students at the Kadamb Performing Unit will set to motion an 1850s work called Ni-ra-tata-dhang, composed by Maharaj Bindadin, the adiguru of kathak.
The poem, says Lakhia, translates from ‘nritya dhang’, or the style of dance — it forms the basis of classic kathak repertoire and dictates technique. Lakhia has taken artistic liberties with it for this production. She has pioneered the art of adapting classical compositions to group choreography.
“I don’t think Maharaj ever thought of it as a non-solo performance,” she says. “Now that kathak seems to have taken over the world, with practioners and classes in the remotest parts of America, choregraphers even in Germany, I thought it would be nice to adapt the piece so that everyone can be familiar with its rhythmic structure.”
The poem has five stanzas, and music director Padma Shri Madhup Mudgal, has composed a tarana or melody for it. As with many classical Kathak compositions, the poem is about Krishna the deity, and the first stanza illustrates Krishna dancing on the banks of the Yamuna, in Vrindavan, and gopis dancing all around.
In the second, the gods in heaven, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, bless Krishna’s dance. Radha is introduced in the third stanza, and the happiness of girls in love elucidated in the fourth.
“The fifth stanza is the most interesting,” says Lakhia. “The bols elaborate on just how to dance in true kathak form, how to take a chakkar, how to perform a tihai [the transition between rhythmic components], everything. It’s fascinating, and I want all kathak dancers to have access to this.”
Lakhia’s style of kathak is unique and non-conformist. “Every person has the right to visualise. Many people look at kathak like the blind men with the elephant — they see it as a rope, or a pillar, focusing on just footwork or just chakkars, but I go right around the elephant and see it in all its glory,” she says. “I’m not a gharanedar or a guru, so I don’t have the pressure of bearing the flag of a particular school. I take elements from every gharana and cook a pulao —and that always tastes better than plain rice.”
What: Vivarta, a Kathak performance by Kadamb Performing Unit
When: Saturday, 7 pm
Where: Tata Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
Entry fee: Tickets start at Rs 200
Call: 022- 2282-4567