Seeking a Renaissance in San Francisco
CounterPULSE, located on 9th and Mission, is a theater that features performing, visual, and community arts from local Bay Area artists. They’ve started a new venture in collaboration with the Dancer’s Group called “2nd Sundays,” where local artists can perform and interact with the audience members, opening up a dialogue about the art. Farah Shaikh, one of the company members of the Chitresh Das Dance Company (CDDC), performed a Kathak (North Indian Classical Dance) solo at the May 9th edition of “2nd Sundays.”
As a part of the Chhandam School of Kathak (which is affiliated with CDDC), I’ve been able to interact with Farah di as a performer and a teacher. From the few performances I’ve seen, she is a beautiful performer. Her presentation, “Segments of the Solo,” showcased two pieces: Rangmanch – Coloring of the Stage and Innovation of the Guru – Kathak Yoga.
Rangmanch means to color the stage. Here the dancer enacts a puja (worship) through mudra (hand gesture) and movement: she sanctifies the stage with water, flame, incense and the ringing of a bell, she offers flowers and a mala (flower garland) to the deity, blows on the conch shell and places sandal wood paste on the diety’s third eye. She then invokes the three deities, Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Maheshwara (the destroyer of illusion). Finally the dancer begins to perform nritta, pure dance.
Kathak Yoga is a technique created by Pandit Chitresh Das. It requires the dancer to simultaneously recite the taal (rhythmic cycle), sing a melody, perform complex footwork and chakkars (spins), and play an instrument (marking the melody or the rhythm). The aim is to unify the various aspects of Kathak, so that the dancer is constantly aware of the precise relationship of whatever composition is being danced (whether a song or a dance composition) to the rhythm cycle.