A colourful Kathak presentation by Nirupama and Rajendra

In a sublime exhibition of classical dance, the eminent Kathak duo Nirupama and Rajendra enthralled audiences during the annual dance festival of the Music Academy with a performance that beautifully deviated from the oft-portrayed narratives of lovelorn nayikas besieged by Cupid’s play. Their performance unveiled a rich tapestry of expression and complex footwork, culminating in a striking kaleidoscope of Kathak’s vibrant dynamism.

The evening’s delight began with a captivating rendition of the abhang ‘Majhe maher pandari’, which soared to popularity through Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s soulful vocalization. Nirupama and Rajendra, accompanied by upcoming talents from their Abhinava Dance Company, articulated the tale of Panduranga with utmost refinement. Each act was a meticulous portrayal of the narrative, immersing the audience in the tale’s festive joy and reverence. Despite the performance’s impressive attention to detail, some spectators felt that the expeditious movement between sequences slightly undermined the portrayal of Bhakti bhava—a devotional attitude integral to the piece.

Photographs captured on January 7, 2024, at the event reveal another gem of the evening—the composition ‘Abhisar – A River’. Drawing inspiration from the life-force of a river, this piece chronicles the meandering journey from its mountain genesis to its serene embrace with the ocean. The dancers, adorned in splendid azure attire, mirrored the river’s fluid oscillations and its passage across diverse landscapes teeming with flora and fauna. Ingenious choreography paired with the gentle cadence of the music composition by Praveen Godkhindi and Tarun Bhattacharjee mirrored the river’s multifarious geographies and emotional textures. Additionally, Shatavdhani Ganesh’s conceptual framework provided depth to the performance’s thematic essence.

Highlighting the visual spectacle of the event, the group choreography drew commendations for its harmonious formations and veritable explosion of colors. Each performer in their vibrant costume contributed to a mosaic of movement that resonated with the audience, leaving an indelible impression of Kathak’s aesthetic grandeur.

The performance engaged the heartstrings of viewers with a sequence adapted from Leela Sukar’s ‘Krishna Karnamritham’. This was a suite of three verses dipped in the nectar of divine love, each threading narratives of the gopis’ unwavering affection for Lord Krishna. One piece explored their dialogue with Krishna’s flute; another presented an exchange between a plaintive group of gopis and Krishna himself; and the third encapsulated the profound viraha shringara— the agony of separation. This emotive expedition, expressed through the dancers’ animated storytelling and graceful group configurations, captivated the assembly.

As the evening approached its zenith, Nirupama and Rajendra, along with the dancers from Abhinava Dance Company, presented ‘Bahurang’. This closing act was a rhythmic jubilee marked by rapid footwork, a cavalcade of parans (a sequence of tabla beats articulated through dance), and an exhilarating flurry of chakkars (spins)—all intrinsic elements of traditional Kathak. The striking visual contrast of stark white kurtas against vividly hued pyjamas synergized with the technical spectacle, culminating in a high-octane finale that left the crowd mesmerized.

The Kathak presentation by Nirupama and Rajendra at the Music Academy has undeniably contributed an unforgettable chapter to the lexicon of classical dance, showcasing their ability to balance tradition with innovation. It served as a vibrant reminder of the possibilities that arise when a longstanding classical form meets the creative articulations of contemporary minds, thus breathing life into stories and emotions that transcend the bounds of time and tradition.

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