World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Shambhavi's International School of Kathak

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Shambhavi Dandekar
First appearance in SF EDF: 2016

Shambhavi Dandekar is the founder of Shambhavi’s International School of Kathak. She has been performing and teaching kathak since 1990. Before moving to California with her family in 2012, she primarily taught out of Pune, India, where she founded her dance school. Shambhavi learned kathak dance from her mother, renowned Guru Maneesha Sathe. She also learned Indian rhythm and aesthetics from tabla maestro Guru Suresh Talwalkar. Members of the company are students of Shambhavi and/or her mother.


GENRE: Kathak
TITLE: Tarana
DANCERS: Meenal Chakradeo, Shambhavi Dandekar, Ashwini Gogate, Radhika Gokhale, Priyanka Mehendale, Snehal Katre-Parelkar, Shruti Naik Patankar, Sarveshwari Sathe, Meera Tamhankar
MUSICIANS: Ruucha Bhave (rhythm recitation), Prasad Bhandarkar (flute), Kunal M (rhythm recitation), Saneyee Purandare (vocals), Vikram Shrowty (Indian slide guitar), Ashish Tare (tabla)

Photo by Mark Muntean

Tarana is a collaboration between Hindustani classical music and the pure dance sequence of North Indian kathak dance. It’s danced as a complex interplay of patterns, as steps match musical rhythms and play them against the raga melodic scale. This tarana is composed in raga Shree, a morning melody. It is a creation of legendary vocalist Pandit Kumar Gandharva, in the rhythm known as drut tritaal, a fast cycle of 16 beats.

Indian classical kathak and Hindustani music evolved simultaneously over centuries to create a total performance form. Kathak finds its roots in 12th century North Indian temple arts, where storytellers called kathakas interpreted scripture—enacting characters, and telling stories with hand gestures, foot tapping, and music. In the 13th century, when temples were demolished during the Mughal invasions, the kathak form moved into Muslim royal courts. There, it merged with Persian and Arabic influenced Hindustani classical music, and the devotional dance became a fast, sophisticated court dance, performed for pleasure. After Indian independence, kathak was restructured for the stage, incorporating both the temple and court traditions. It’s now known for its endless possibilities of rhythm, its fluid and graceful movement, natural acting, and dancers’ ability to embrace and translate life experience.

Tarana is the name of a form created in part by Persian musician Amir Khusro. In the 13th century, he traveled to India to learn classical music. He found language was a great barrier to his studies, as Indian music was sung in poetic verse. He solved this by singing abstract syllables such as “tanom,” “tom,” and “tanana.” This performance recreates the original tarana concept. The choreography merges with vocal music, recited rhythmic syllables, tabla percussion, bansuri flute, and string instruments.

The costume is traditional—a dupatta scarf, a dholi blouse, and a ghagra skirt that flares out as dancers spin. Ghugroos ankle bells, worn in every Indian classical form, play a leading role in kathak: every beat is captured, sounding the ring of bells with rhythmic tapping feet.

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