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Kathak-tap jugalbandi creates rhythm divine

- Fusion of Indian classical and contemporary US dance enthralls audience at Rabindra Bhawan

Feb. 1: Tap dance on one end and Kathak on the other — do they sound similar? You bet they do! Both Kathak and tap dance are all about the magic that is created by the rhythm of the feet.

The striking resemblance between the two classical dance forms from two different corners of the globe enthralled the audience, who had assembled at Rabindra Bhawan to experience an amazing performance by renowned Kathak dancer Pandit Chhandam Chitresh Das and popular American tap dancer and choreographer, Jason Samuels Smith.

The production titled India Jazz Suites was in fact a wonderful example of the amalgamation of Indian classical tradition and contemporary American dance form.

The programme, Fastest Feet in Rhythm, was organised by the American Center, Calcutta, in collaboration with the Pandit Chhandam Chitresh Das Dance Company in an effort to strengthen ties between the people of India and the US through cultural exchange.

Contemporary jazz musicians Theo Hill, Andrew Atkinson and Sascha Jacobson as well as Indian classical musicians, Biplab Bhattacharyya, Debashis Sarkar and Jayanta Banerjee, accompanied both Das and Smith during the performance.

Interacting with the media, Smith said, “Tap dance originated among the Afro-American communities who in earlier times were prohibited from playing the drum. While this dance form is performed live, it is still not performed in movies. Just like Kathak, there is a need to popularise it among the young generation in the US. Both Kathak and tap dance have great similarities that basically concerns the rhythm created by the movement of the feet.”

“During my performances with Das, I have realised how rich the Indian classical tradition is and I am sure we stand to gain immensely by encouraging cultural exchange through different forms of performing art,” he said.

The programme was an instant hit, as the performers managed to bowl over the audience with their performance.

The vibrant programme began with a tap dance by Smith, followed by the dance of Shiva by Das.

From where Das ended, Smith again took off with his foot tapping in a rhythmic beat. It was soon followed by the Shakuntala golpo (tale of Shakuntala) in the Kathak tradition.

The striking resemblance between Kathak and tap dance was there for all to see in this synchronised performance.

“The Indian classical music is very rich and we have a lot to learn from it. This is not just the tradition of the artistes, but of the public who will find it to be interesting only if they spare a few moments to understand it. Today, I will be performing the Kathak yoga, which is an innovative combination of dance, song and yoga that have been derived from the sages who have acquired wisdom through years of deep meditation. Tap dance, too, has to be popularised so that more people practise it and what Smith performs is the very original version of the dance form,” Das said.

“Guwahati is a very important city for us where we definitely would like to bring more internationally acclaimed artistes in the near future. Das and Smith will also conduct two workshops on Kathak and tap dance for differently-abled children at Shishu Sarothi. However, in February we will be bringing a few baseball players from America to Manipur as a similar sport like baseball is played there, too,” Rachel Sunden, deputy director of the American Center, Calcutta, said.