World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Chitresh Das Dance Company

DANCE ORIGIN: Uttar Pradesh
GENRE: Kathak
First Appearance in EDF: 1984

The Chitresh Das Dance Company is comprised of dancers whose abilities exemplify Chitresh Das’ emphasis on the technical, graceful and dramatic aspects of kathak dance. Principal Company members have become established artists in their own right, performing internationally to great acclaim. With a repertoire ranging from the exploration of the rhythms of North and South India (Pancha Jati), stories and moving images of the lavish courts of India (Darbar) to the pure dance energy of Tarana, the critically acclaimed Chitresh Das Dance Company continues to captivate audiences on their international tours.



DANCERS: Antara Bhardwaj, Rachna Nivas, Labonee Mohanta, Farah Yasmeen Shaikh
MUSICIANS: Samrat Kekkari (tabla), Ben Kunin (sarod), Seibi Lee (vocals, manjira, surmandal), Pankaj Mishra (sarangi).

Chamak means Shine, and Chamak highlights signature works created by renowned kathak dancer Pandit Chitresh Das. Inspired by Das’ electrifying twelve-minute presentation at the 1984 Olympics, the piece highlights elements essential to any kathak dancer. These elements are: tayari, or virtuosity of technique, speed, endurance, and readiness; layakari, or deep understanding of rhythm and timing; the element of khoobsurti or beauty and grace; and the subtle delicacy called nazakat. The performance also shows the dancers’ extensive training in mime and expression.

The dance begins with high energy and an invocation to Goddess Durga, one of the main forms of the Goddess Shakti in the Hindu pantheon. She is the great mother; and also shakti and shanti—power and peace. The piece proceeds to Chitresh Das’ signature fast-paced tarana, a vocalized rhythmic melody with syllables derived from the language of the drum. Next comes Pandit Das’ innovation of kathak yoga, inspired by the great sadhus and yogis of India. This is a spiritual practice combining vocals, drum, and footwork playing complex mathematical rhythms. The piece culminates in a rhythmic exchange between dancers and musicians. The choreography is by Pandit Chitresh Das.

At its core, kathak is the art of storytelling, a form born in India’s ancient temples. There, storytellers known as kathakas narrated history through dance, music, and mime, bringing to life the Hindu scriptures, the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, and the Sanskrit Puranas. From this early devotional form, kathak gradually moved into the courts of Hindu maharajas and Muslim nawabs as lavish entertainment. (The characteristic fast spin—the chakkar—is thought to have been inspired by Persian dervishes.) Later, in the mid-1800’s, kathak gained prominence among kings and overlords as both entertainment and a classical art. To the north, in Rajasthan’s Hindu courts, the Jaipur gharana (school) emphasized the technical mastery of pure dance. The eastern court of Wajid Ali Shah emphasized dramatic and sensuous expression, with court dancer Thakur Prasad developing the Lucknow school. Kathak lineage is traced from generation to generation, father to son, guru to disciple, and Pandit Chitresh Das’ lineage can traced back to Thakur Prasad.

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