World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Antara Asthaayi Dance

GENRE: Kathak
First appearance in SF EDF: 2018

Antara Asthaayi Dance was formed by Antara Bhardwaj in 2015. As a senior disciple of the late Pandit Chitresh Das, she studied in the traditional Guru-Shishya (disciple) tradition since age 9, and believes strongly in the power of teaching and mentorship. AAD mentors young dancers who have completed at last seven years of kathak study and are seeking to advance their art form and develop as professionals.


TITLE: Hindol Tarana, 12 1/2 Matra
CHOREOGRAPHER: Antara Bhardwaj
COMPOSER: Pandit Chitresh Das
DANCERS: Antara Bhardwaj, Riya Bhatia, Suhani Chaudhary, Ojaswee Chaudhary, Riya Chopra, Sana Indap, Shreeya Indap, Anya Khatri, Riya Mittal, Sakshi Prabhu
MUSICIANS: Subha Chaki (vocals), Nilan Chaudhuri (tabla), Ben Kunin (sarod), Raginder Singh Momi (violin), Surtaal Singh (vocals)


This exciting performance of Indian classical dance—Hindol Tarana, 12˝ Matra—reveals the extraordinary rhythmic abilities of ten kathak dancers. A Tarana is a Hindustani vocal form with meaningless words which function as percussive sounds, and matra refers to the rhythm: note that difficult extra half-beat. The classical dance form of kathak was originally an intimate, solo, improvised form: Antara Bhardwaj's world-premiere choreography holds its ancient spirit within a dynamic, contemporary ensemble.

The original creator of Hindol Tarana is the late, beloved kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das; these dancers are his former students, and this was one of two pieces honoring him in our 2018 Festival. Pandit Das performed the piece for the 1984 Olympics in 16 even beats to showcase kathak's embodied aspects: tayari techniques of dynamic footwork and rapid spins; layakari play with rhythm); khoobsurti (beauty); and nazakat (delicacy). In 2010, he recreated Hindol Tarana in the 12˝ taal (rhythm) with senior disciple Antara as vocal accompanist. She says, "I was the only one who performed it (vocals) with him on stage the one time he performed this tarana. When a Guru teaches a dance to you, it is then yours - a forever treasured connection between you and your guru lineage. It makes me proud that I can pass this on to future generations."

The music is raga Hindol, Hindustani cycle of melody/rhythm for a springtime morning. Tarana's syllables, created by poet and musician Amir Khusro (1253-1325), are based on Persian and Arabic phonemes and Sufi poetry. They begin: Dere na ta, dere na ta, dere na...

Kathak evolved from ancient kathakas telling spiritual stories, history, and culture through music, dance, and mime. During the Bhakti movement it became a temple dance of Krishna, and in India's Mogul courts it was shaped into sensual erotic entertainment, danced to Persian tabla drum, with poetic ghazals, songs of longing, Sufi spins, and veils. The colonial British prohibited kathak, calling it unrespectable, but the form was preserved in two family schools, called gharanas. Pandit Chitresh Das, schooled in both gharanas, leaves a unique artistic legacy: a style with embodied, graceful, sensual elements of the Lucknow Gharana and the dynamic power of the Jaipur Gharana.

The dancers wear traditional Islamic thaat attire, with silk pants, midriff-baring blouse, organza coat, topi hat, and jhoomar jewelry. Red alta (dye traditionally made from betel leaves) adorns fingers and toes to accentuate their subtle movements.

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