Asian Music and Dance

Utsāv: On the Auspicious Occasion of Guru Purnima – pt1

“A Guru is more than just a teacher of an art form, they guide you through the path of life” – that was the resounding message from the outset of Utsāv, a celebration of the annual Guru Purnima Day held at the Nehru Centre in Green Park. Over the course of two consecutive July evenings, Tuesday the 3rd and Wednesday the 4th, the Sujata Banerjee Dance Company presented students of eminent London-based kathak teachers (Gurus), to offer respect and admiration of Gurus of the form across the world. 

To open the show, a male-female duet from students of Urja Desai Thakore: Parbati Chaudhry and Sanjay Shetty. The piece was a tribute to Kumudini Lakhia, or Kumiben as she is known to her disciples, one of the most highly-acclaimed Gurus of the kathak form, with music composed by Alap Desai. Although nameless, it was an extremely detailed piece which required strong technical skill from its dancers. Together, Chaudhry and Shetty were vibrant, powerful, dynamic; showing both their speed and strength in the fast tatkar footwork and chakkadar spins. Having said that, Shetty was almost bouncing off the walls with his energy which occasionally affected his adherence to the taal. In a similar way, there was an abundance of energy in the following item, Shamaa Dance Company founded by Sushma Mehta, which included Marcina Arnold, Maria Scialdone, Ruby Nyear and Souraya Amin. The colourful quartet performed a ghazal, Mojae Gul, to a recorded accompaniment, like the piece before it, sung by Chandra Chakraborthy with tabla from Debashish Mukherjee, sitar from Baluji Shivastava, and bols by choreographer and Artistic Director of the Company, Sushma Mehta. Notably, the detailing in the abhinaya was exquisite, for all dancers invested their mind and body, heart and soul in the performance, in the poetry; and Mehta’s arrangement of the bodies in space in simple, yet effective formations was stunning. 

The final item of the evening was a solo presentation from 17-year-old Jaina Modasia, a student of Sujata Banerjeee, who made her debut last summer at the Watersmeet Theatre in Rickmansworth. Tonight’s performance was Modasia’s first solo presentation in a year, with live musical accompaniment from Aniruddha Mukherjee on tabla, Anirban Bhattacharya on vocals and Chandrachur Bhattacharya on sitar. Her performance was bright, beaming and beautiful with technical accuracy and charisma, but it was her abhinaya that stole the show. Krishna Katha, a composition which was specially created by Sujataji for Modasia’s Manch Pravesh, is a story from Krishna’s childhood when he used to steal the makhun, or ghee, until he saves his friend Dropadi from being disrobed. Modasia’s abhinaya was not only believable but relatable: at one moment a greedy child gobbling up as much food as she can manage; the next, propping herself up, regrettably full. A captivating performance from this young dancer.



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