Chhandam Youth Dance Company
DANCE ORIGIN: North India
Kathak is among the major classical dances of India. In northern India, traditional storytellers known as kathakas once brought to life the great scriptures and epics, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Puranas of Sanskrit literature, while entertaining with dance, music, and mime. The lineage of kathak can be traced from generation to generation, parent to child, guru to disciple. In the 1800's, India's kings and zamindar (overlords) celebrated kathak as both entertainment and a respected classical art. Several different kathak gharanas, or schools, emerged. The Jaipur gharana emerged in the Hindu courts of semi-desert Rajasthan; it emphasized the vigorous aspects of pure dance. Lucknow gharana developed to the east, in the Muslim court of Wajid Ali Shah; it focused on dramatic and sensuous expression.
Kathak Masters Ram Narayan Misra and Prohlad Das were—respectively—guru and father of Chitresh Das. At the age of nine, Pandit Das tied strings with his guru, and was schooled in the subtleties of both Lucknow and Jaipur gharanas. Pandit Das performed in one of the first San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festivals in the late 1970s, and was the first recipient of the Festival's Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award.
Artistic Director Pandit Chitresh Das established the Chhandam Youth Dance Company in 2002. Charlotte Moraga stepped into the role of Chhandam Youth Company Director last year when former Director Jaiwanti Pamnani passed away last year from cancer; she will always be remembered for her passion and dedication to helping her guru preserve kathak for future generations. Charlotte learned kathak in the traditional guru-shisya parampara from Pandit Chitresh Das in the U.S. and India. Today's youth company members have studied kathak for four to ten years. They have the opportunity to train directly with Pandit Das, as they study technique and the rhythmic system of north Indian classical dance, Indian music, theory, history, philosophy, and etiquette.
TITLE: Kathak Yoga
Kathak masters Ram Narayan Misra and Prohlad Das were—respectively—guru and father of Chitresh Das. At the age of nine, Pandit Das tied strings with his guru, and was schooled in the subtleties of both Lucknow and Jaipur gharanas. Pandit Das performed in one of the first San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festivals in the late 1970s, and was the first recipient of the Festival’s Malonga Casquelord Lifetime Achievement Award. Pandit Das recently received the National Heritage Award and currently tours all over India and North America teaching and performing. His training institution, the Chhandam School of Kathak Dance, has branches in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Boston, Mumbai, and Kolkata.
Kathak Yoga is a unique innovation within kathak tradition, focusing on the purely rhythmic elements of kathak rather than the storytelling aspects. Traditionally, a solo artist would take the stage for a two hour concert accompanied by virtuosic musicians on tabla, sarode, vocal, and sarangi. Pandit Das has developed a dynamic way for dancers to take on the role of the musicians by singing the melody of the rhythmic cycle and playing a percussion instrument such as the manjira, hand cymbals, while at the same performing complicated rhythmic patterns with the feet. It takes tremendous focus and integration of the aspects of kathak. Kathak Yoga is named for the Sanskrit root word yug, meaning union. Kathak Yoga is a mediation in motion, a union of mind, body, and spirit. The costumes are based on traditional Moghul designs. Bright, brassy bells wrapped around loose churiadhar pants transform the dancers into musical instruments. The Moghul dresses with brocade waistcoats are combined with flowers, to show both Hindu and Muslim influences in kathak.
This is the world premier of Uttarakaala, choreographed by Kathak Master Pandit Chitresh Das, assisted by Senior Disciple Charlotte Moraga. Uttarakaala means future, and the dance is aptly named. The piece was created for young dancers for this Festival— both to showcase the virtuosity and energy of the next generation, and to carry kathak dance into the future. Pandit Das' choreography uses traditional movements, exhibiting aspects of tayaari (technical readiness and excellence), laykaari (rhythmic complexities), khubsurti (beauty), and nazakut (delicacy).
Abhijit Banerjee plays tabla, and Jayanta Banerjee plays sitar. They peform this Taranâ —a form which uses sung syllables—in raag Maulkauns. Uttarakaala focuses on the purely rhythmic elements of kathak; rather than the storytelling aspects of kathak. The costumes are based on traditional Moghul designs. Bright, brassy bells wrapped around loose churiadhar pants transform the dancers also into musical instruments. The Moghul dresses with brocade waistcoats are combined with flowers, to show both Hindu and Muslim influences in kathak.