Kathak exponent, Padma Bhushan Kumudini Lakhia and her students at the Kadamb Performing Unit will set to motion an 1850s work called Ni-a-Tata-hang, composed by Maharaj Bindadin, the Adi Guru of Kathak. The poem, says Lakhia, translates from ‘nritya dhang,’ or the style of dance, it forms the basis of classic Kathak repertoire and dictates proficiency. Lakhia has taken the artistic prerogatives with it for this production. She has pioneered the art of adapting classical compositions to group choreography. Earlier, Gurgaon’s cultural roadster of traditional dance portrayals Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri and Haryanvi folk.
“I don’t meditate Maharaj ever thought of it as a non-solo performance,” she says. “Now that kathak seems to take over the world, with practitioners and classes in the remotest parts of America, choreographers even in Germany and I thought it would be fun to accommodate the piece so that everyone can be recurring with its rhythmic structure.”
The poem had five stanzas, and music director Padma Shri Madhup Mudgal has tranquil an arena or melody for it. As with many traditional Kathak configurations, the poem is about Krishna the deity, and the first stanza illustrates Krishna dancing on the banks of the Yamuna, in Vrindavan, and Gopies dancing all around. In the second, the gods in heaven, Mahesh, Brahma, Vishnu, bless Krishna’s dance. Radha is introduced in the third stanza, and the happiness of girls in love elucidated in the fourth.
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“The fifth stanza is the most interesting one,” says Lakhia. “The bols elaborate on just how to dance in pure Kathak form, how to take a Thakkar, how to percolate a tihai (the transition between rhythmic components), everything. It’s mesmerising, and I want all Kathak dancers to have access to this.”
Lakhia’s Kathak style is unique and non-conformist. “Every person has the right to envisage. Many people look at Kathak like the groping men with the elephant, they see it as a rope, or a pillar, intensification on just footwork or just chakkars, but I go right around the elephant and see it in all its splendour,” she says. “I am not a gharanedar or a guru, so I don’t have the pressure of unassertive the flag of a particular school. I take elements from every Gharana and cook a pulao, and that always tastes better than plain rice.”