Dance meets history

Ambika Shaligram
Thursday, 31 October 2019

Kathak dancer Sharvari Jamenis and Dr Chaitanya Kunte share with us details of Nritya-Gaan, a performance based on the material available in Dr Ashok Da Ranade Archives

The Indian classical art forms stand tall on a base comprising swar, laya and sahitya. The last one allows the practitioners to explore the various rasas like bhakti, shringar, and present them in the old and new format to the connoisseurs. Nritya-Gaan, conceptualised by Kathak dancer Sharvari Jamenis, to celebrate the fifth foundation day of Dr Ashok Da Ranade Archives for Performing Arts and Culture, is one such performance. 

The archives was founded under the auspices of Maharashtra Cultural Centre. ‘Performance from Archives’, a series of special performances are presented annually, in which an artist is invited to present a performance with use of the archival material. This Saturday, Sharvari will be presenting performances based on the material that she researched in Ranade archives. 

“I had to devise completely new dance pieces for this performance, which was both challenging and fulfilling. I began work on it about a month and a half ago and needless to say, it was a monumental task. Ashok Da Ranade was a music critic, musicologist and the archives has a vast collection of his work. But not every music composition can be translated visually for a dance performance. The task before me was to choose those elements that could have a visual impact,” says the dancer. 

In the course of her research, she decided to work around some definitive and rare pieces of work. A Kathak performance typically begins with Ganesh Vandana and so will the performance on Saturday evening, but the way it will be presented will be different. Says Sharvari, “We have chosen a Katav recitation. We will begin with a dance piece, and when we come to the part of the shlokas, we will have a dhrut taal, where we recite the chant. One aspect of Kathak is ‘padhant’, and we have included it when we chant the shloka. My girls and I will be reciting the Katav for quarter part, followed by dance again. This will be something new for the audience.”

She has also choreographed special dance pieces for her troupe of dancers — Mugdha Tiwari, Bhargavi Deshmukh, Vaishnavi Deshpande, Simran Pawar and Jui Sagdev.   

The dancer-actor will also be performing Chautaal, a composition by Acharya Ratanjankar. A taal is the technical presentation based on the rhythmic cycle of a certain number of beats. “Taal is a technique, but what makes Chautaal unique is that the composition hints at the characteristics of the taal and what each beat is trying to say. Chautaal is used in performance of Tandav, so I am performing two poems in praise of Lord Shiva,” she adds.

Dr Chaitanya Kunte, a well-known composer, musicologist and also founder-director of Ranade Archives, adds, “Raag compositions are famously known, but not the taal compositions. The dance performance will be in Dhrupad genre.”

This will be followed by Chaturang, a pure Kathak piece. It has been composed by Nawab Ghulam Raza. A book containing his compositions, which are about 200 years old, is available in the archives. “Chaturang is based in Raag Sarang. We have tried to bring forth the unexplored compositions in the programme and this is one of them,” he says.  

The Nritya-Gaan performance will also include two lavanis and one qawwali, which is again a rarity. “Dr Ranade has contributed to the revival of Baithakichi Lavani (chamber performance). And the two lavanis chosen — one written by Honaji Bala and another by Manik Prabhu, a saint-poet — have been set to tune by Ranade. The Sufi Qawwali has also been composed by him, and written by Hazrat Amir Khusrau. The latter piece was taken from Ranade’s music programme, Geeti- Bhaan, in which he traced the changing forms of Indian classical music,” adds Dr Kunte.  

Talking about Baithakichi Lavani, which has now faded away, Sharvari says, “My guru Rohini Bhate, apart from her command over laya and taal, was known for dance presentation in sitting-down style and the detailing in abhinaya. I will try to attempt it in this performance. The lavani by Honaji Bala is a very evocative description of green colour. It also has a thumri flavour to it, and so I chose it. Else, lavani as a folk performative element would have been very incongruous in a classical music setting. The second lavani is ‘Krishna mazyakade pahu nakos, majhi ghagar geli kuthe’, which gives me enough scope to read and say something between the lines. This composition falls in the Gawalan sub-genre.”  

The qawwali too falls in the bhakti rasa, which is a key element of any classical performance. “Claps are common in a qawwali and those we have included in our performance. The base of Nritya-Gaan is Kathak, but within it, we have tried to widen our approach,” adds Sharvari. 

Surely, that’s music to the ears of the connoisseurs. 

Nritya-Gaan will be presented on November 2 at 6.30 pm at Jyotsna Bhole Sabhagruha, Tilak Road. Donation passes will be available at the venue

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