Asian Music and Dance

Kathak Repertoire

After a break of thirteen years to raise a family, Kajal Sharma returned to the stage at London’s Nehru Centre with a solo kathak performance.

Student of the maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj, Kajal performed with the maturity, confidence and stage presence of a dedicated artist highly trained in her art form. With a delightful combination of energy and grace she took the audience through the repertoire of kathak. Kajal began with Sarasvati Vandana, an invocation to goddess Sarasvati, the deity symbolising learning and arts. She followed this with a selection of nritta (pure dance) compositions: Uthan, ladi, variations of amad-s, tihai-s, paran-s and jugal bandi (or friendly contest) between the dancer and the tabla player. 

Accompanied by Shabaz Husain on tabla and the veteran music composer and vocalist Pandit Vishva Prakash on harmonium, Kajal had a good rapport with the musicians, despite this being the first time they were performing together. Her commanding presence on the stage was in evidence. 

Kajal continued with a Kabir bhajan. Choreographed by the dancer, the expression of the bhajan displayed her skill in story telling but the sattvika abhinaya (manifestation of the psyche) came through in her bhav (expression of emotion) only at the end when she seemed to have gone into a trance with the open armed chakkars inspired by the Sufi philosophy.

It is a pity that recorded music was used for the abhinaya (expressional) piece even though the opportunity to use live singing was available. Time was short but I think repetition like a repertoire of variations on a composition could have been avoided. Lyrical pieces like the gat or the tarana could have been added to the presentation. But with kathak the open structure of kathak does mean that the mood of the moment often governs the flow of the performance. 

The performance was sprinkled with little snippets about her training with the Pandit Maharaj. And while talking about the importance of riyaz (dedicated practice) she referred to a particularly difficult composition that she was going to present and mentioned how Maharaj-ji had told them to practise it a thousand times before performing it. She certainly appeared to have done so. Tradition lives on.



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