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Kathak to Arican-American Poetry

Updated on: 21 April,2009 07:40 AM IST  | 
Kasmin Fernandes |

Four young Kathak and contemporary dancers begin NCPA Dance Week with a multilingual, cross-cultural quilt of poetry, dance, music and narratives

Kathak to Arican-American Poetry

Four young Kathak and contemporary dancers begin NCPA Dance Week with a multilingual, cross-cultural quilt of poetry, dance, music and narratives

It was while studying African-American poet Ntozake Shange's choreopoem For coloured girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf' in college, that the seed of Let Her Be Born germinated in creative choreographer Sanjukta Wagh's head. "Shange gives license to 'do what you want' with her poem. So, instead of writing an analysis, I choreographed a group act for literature class. That got me thinking about the voices of other women bards across the ages," said Sanjukta, at a rehearsal for Tuesday's performance.u00a0

Sanjukta has been performing Kathak professionally for a decade, under the guidance of Rajashree Shirke. She won the Charles Wallace India Trust Award this year that entitles her to a year's study of contemporary dance in the UK. Before she left for foreign shores, she decided to bring her idea to public stage. The result: Let Her Be Born, which will be staged on April 21 at the NCPA.

Sanjukta has used Shange's choreopoem as a base to experiment with poetry from the medieval to cutting edge contemporary. Collaborating with her are long-time fellow Kathak danseuses Prajakta Bhide and Neha Kudchadkar Daroz, and childhood friend and contemporary dancer Neha John. Each person brings in elements of Bharatnatyam, abhinaya (expression) and theatre, casual, classical and fusion. "We are hoping to undo the elitist tag associated with classical and contemporary dance," says John.u00a0

They have interspersed excerpts from Shange's provocative work with word, melody and movement in a rich mosaic of women's experiences. The 1-hour-15-minute piece has a gamut of voices from Parvathy Baul to Joy Harjo, Begum Akhtar to Toni Morrison, from Girija Devi to Kabita Sinha, from Khandeshi poet Bahinabai Chaudhuri to Ella Fitzgerald. The costumes (Afghan pants and black tees) and movements (at times, Sanjukta and John do a classical-modern jugalbandi) could rattle classical purists. But Neha K welcomes reactions. "Dance evolves through dialogue and interaction, after all."u00a0
Free entry on a first-come-first-served basis.
At Little Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point at 6.30 pm. Call 66548135 for details on April 21.
There will be a Chauraha discussion with the artists after the programme.

NCPA Dance Week
International Dance Day (April 29) was instituted by UNESCO in 1982 to commemorate the birthday of dance reformer Jean-Georges Noverre (born 1727). Around this day, the NCPA will offer a small but fascinating glimpse into the world of Indian dance today. From Kathak to Kutiyattam, from Nautanki to Mohini Attam, from Chhau to Bharatnatyam, you'll see it all. Apart from Let Her Be Born, there will be a solo ballet encompassing three classical dance forms by a senior urban dancer. Rare dance theatre styles Kuttiyattam, Chhau and Sattriya will be showcased in a special three-day festival (in collaboration with the Sangeet Natak Akademi) from April 27 to 29. Finally, an acclaimed play by a dynamic theatre group will explore the parallel idioms of high classicism and robust folk.

NCPA Dance Week events will be held daily from April 21 to 30.
At the National Centre for the Performing Arts, NCPA Marg, near Hilton Towers, Nariman Point.
For line-up and timings, call the NCPA at 22824567 / 66548135 / 66223724

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