Sunday, July 10, 2016

A captivating evening with Antara Asthaayi - Tale of a Kathaka

What an enthralling evening it was, I am yet to get over with it. Antara Asthaayi - Tale of a Kathaka, the journey of this Kathaka to the world was an amazing story telling event by Antara Bhardwaj.
I mean every art is a way of telling us a story in one or the other form and this one through Kathak was one of a kind.
I have watched Pt. Birju Maharaj performing at the age of 75 and then Antonia Minnecola (Mrs Ustaad Zakir Hussain), what a graceful performance and after that I never felt so mesmerized until this evening.
Antara Bhardwaj, the fastest feet dancer in the world, around 12 slaps per second performer rocked the stage by engaging the audience with her story as an immigrant to a country where she could dream to be a kathak dancer that too watching old Hindi movies such as Guide, Pakeeza and many more. 
Most of the time you will see in mehafils, the kathak dancer will play in tukra (short dance composition) and toda (long dance composition), and tell the story and here what I loved about Antara is that as she was explaining about the story she was performing in tihais (footwork). She also did few tukra for Sader to play on his tabla - that was unseen where the tabla player is playing on the bols and tukras of kathak dancer.

I agree when people say learn the basic schooling which is so important as lot of logics that we use in our day to day life is based on that elementary to high-school level of subjects and Math being one of them. Antara explained very well how the rhythmic play with its time cycle be calculated by splitting it into triplets or quintuplets marked on the footwork so that it counterpoint to the rhythm of the percussion.
All this was summarized in a sequential and a very well choreographed performance along with internationally renowned musicians from India and US. Salar Nader on tabla, whom I have been watching since long time when he performed at SF Jazz and there on in many such events and its amazing to see his creativity as I follow him on twitter too. One must learn from them to understand the basic so that everyone can have their little creation on the bols (dha, ge, na 'ti' 'na' 'ka' 'dhi na').
Pankaj Mishra on Sarangi, Ben Kunin on Sarod, Rajib Karmakar on Sitar - we were told it was his first performance on the stage - but frankly speaking his performance didn't say that as he rocked the solo and the jugalbandi like a pro.
When Deewani Mastani started with 'mastani' song from Bajirao Mastani film, it gave a feeling of reawakened may be because I am bias towards Hindi-Urdu poetry but I knew my evening is going to rock. The beauty of this piece was the fusion of Kathak with Khepri (Belly Dance) very beautifully choreographed by Antara herself and Andrea Sendek - both had the sensuality and passion that this deewani needed.

Thaat, actually we all have it within our selves and we do use at times whether to show love, mischief, or even when you are upset with something. The expression with your face, eyes, neck and all this was done by Antara which reminded me of Ustaad Zakir Hussain's residency class that takes place in SF Jazz center every year - an amazing one.

Every time I go for a Kathak I learn something new and the eagerness of what this dancer will relate to is the curious part which Antara here was able to fulfill with the journey of steam engine and I being grown up with that time really helped to relate it and such a beautiful and graceful depiction of that with her footwork. I wished it could be replayed again and again :).

The jugalbandi by musicians I have always loved since my childhood and I remember how my feet and my hand used to play with that rhythm, it took me back then when I used to watch these with my dad. Pankaj Mishra and Ben Kunin's communication through Sarangi and Sarod along with the solo Sitar by Rajib Karmakar was captivating.

There was Gat Bhao where the dancer tells a story as well as she will play all the characters of that story and a small piece of incident which I have read in my school days about the naughtiness of Krishna, Radha and the Gopis. Beautifully performed and best was that each performance had its own costumes. Antara did spend time in changing costumes based on the dance she was performing and it was an epic selection of all - kudos to Alka Garg. The funny part was when she said she always loved the Radha but not the Krishna's Radha, instead the Radha characters which Subhash Ghai's movies have, I tell you what an influence of Hindi films and this kind of influence is not bad at all.

The Hindol Tarana is something I have heard and watched the dancers performing but it was not known to me that there is no meaning in here other than the dancer portrays the beauty, delicacy, and technique along with the rhythm. I think I enjoyed it more when I understood the meaning of tarana here.

There wasn't a moment where audience was not kept engaged, as Salar Nader took everyone on his journey from Kabul express to Mumbai express while the bullet train from Japan came over. Tabla has always made my feet restless and unknowingly I would play the beat and his tali and khali was reminding me of Ustaad Zakir Hussian sahab. 

It was not over yet when Chilman (veil) happened, this was the last piece of the evening. Urdu has been my weakness and chilman is something which expresses the beauty of a woman thats what I believe. This dance was a creation of Antara and it really did surprise me when Antara started the dance with Javed Akhtar's (my favorite poet), lyrics and ended with Hazrat Amir Khusro on chaap tilak... I swear to anything I was thrilled and mesmerized with this creativity. 

Antara has gained many fans I am sure and I have become one this evening for being such a graceful performer with the professionalism which she carried through out that audience could only applause until the end. It was an amazing performance package and I am looking forward to her next one The Conference of the Birds - I am sure its going to create history right here in this silicon valley and its dance and music direction is done by none other than Antara Bhardwaj. Its with thirty dancers and fifteen actors representing twelve cultures from four continents - its going to be a heaven with mystical sufi allegory.... the wait is worth!!!!
I am so happy to be part of Sangam Arts and along with Sangam Enacte bringing these events for audiences like us in bay area - its a true blessing. The evening dosage was such that I am still high :)

~ Dawn     

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