Rhythmic compositions together with ‘bhava’ or expressional pieces comprise the repertoire of Kathak, which originated in the ancient temples of north India. It later found its way into the royal courts of Awadh and Jaipur. With the onset of the Mughal period, it became a court dance for royal entertainment. So we have devotional temple Kathak on the one hand and, on the other, the dazzling court Kathak with its exotic costumes and Persian influence. As a story-telling form, Kathak is born of the narrative tradition of the village minstrel – the story-teller, who is also called kathak, or kathakar. The kathakar sang of heroic tales and legends, dramatising lyrics with subtle gestures and expressions. The tradition gradually blossomed into a highly developed classical style. This graceful and spontaneous dance form encapsulates the poetry, mythology and spiritual ethos of its roots, and most importantly, India’s rich Hindu-Muslim heritage.

A leading Kathak exponent, Dr Malabika Mitra combines the virtuosity of the Jaipur Gharana with the grace of the Lucknow Gharana in her work. She was trained in the Jaipur style by the late Pt Ramgopal Mishra for several years and has also studied the nuances of the Lucknow style and the Old Traditional Temple Art of Story-telling Style of Ayodhya under the late Pt Om Prakash Maharaj. Rhythmic compositions or bhava pieces, Malabika’s intensive training and dedication gives her a fine appreciation of the idiom of Kathak. Sound technique, scintillating footwork, confident bols and impressive padhant combined with a pleasant personality mark her performances. Dr Mitra has successfully revived a refined and modified version of the ancient Kathavachan Temple Art with its value-oriented education system in present-day Kathak repertoire. She is a top-grade artiste of Doordarshan and has choreographed the Kathak ballet for the national broadcaster. She has performed both in India and at several prestigious festivals abroad. Selected a Senior Fellow by the Indian government for her research work in the Kathavachan style, Dr Mitra teaches at her Shibpur ONKAR Dances and Music Centre some of whose senior students are established performers.

Presentation - Exploring both the tandava and lasya aspects of Kathak through traditional compositions, the presentation commences with Vedasara Shivastotra – an invocation to Lord Shiva as the Cosmic Dancer – the creator, the protector and the destroyer of the universe. Talanga is next in Tala Dhamar, a 14-beat time cycle explored through traditional thaats or musical frameworks, bols and footwork. This is followed by Chhand Parikrama in which the dancers play the different rhythmic patterns through footwork and traditional bols like Tora, Primalu and Parans set to different chhand or rhythmic patterns. Next is Gopi Biraha which explores the agony of Vrindavan-vasis after Krishna goes away to Mathura. The gopis recall the magic of his sweet flute and, in their anguish, ask the Kadamb tree if it knows his whereabouts. Overwhelmed by separation, they cry out that the once bountiful nature in Vrindavan has now become hostile to life. The performance closes with Tarana – a rendition of joy in speed, beauty, grace and rhythm – in Raga Malkauns set to Teentala.

Artistes’ Credits
Dancers: Sourav Roy, Sreeparne Chakraborty, Tabasmi Pal Majumder, Lopamudra Roy Choudhury, Esha Mitra, Anushree Mitra & Tanushree Mitra
Tabla – Pt Dinanath Mishra
Vocal – Pt Anand Gupta; Pratip Banerjee
Sarod – Jayanta Bhattacharya
Sitar – Sandeep Neogi
Sarangi – Umesh Mishra
Synthesiser – Indranil Roy