Kathak and Rabindra Sangeet come together
Kathak dancer Monisa Nayak had reason to be pleased in the run up to her latest performance. The Sangeet Natak Academy has just awarded her the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in Kathak dance for this year.
This honour was a good augury for a recent programme where she led a Kathak troupe to the accompaniment of the mellifluous Rabindra Sangeet. Bringing up the Tagore songs was Jayati Ghosh, a chemical engineer by profession.
The evening began with “Nrityer Taaley Taaley,” an offering to Natraj. The performance then moved on to the songs of Bashanto (spring) taken from “Bhanushingher Padaboli” -- “Gahano kusum…Aaju sakhi muhu muhu.” The latter half of the evening featured songs on Borsha (monsoon) -- “Sawan gaganey ghor ghanaghata…Sakhi Andhare…”
“Tagore was a great believer in the cyclic nature of time -- the cycle of creation and destruction to pave the way for new creation. So my group and I ended with the last song of the evening, where he invited everybody to join in the game to end the game -- 'Aaj khela bhangar khela khelbi aai aai…aaj khela bhangar khela,” says the talented Monisa.
The performance by Monisa and Jayati fused perfectly. Says Jayati, “Normally the choreography is compromised to meet the needs of Rabindra Sangeet and vice versa. We tried to avoid this pitfall.”
Likewise, Monisa asserts: “It was certainly a challenge for me to create a coordination between the soft melody of Rabindra Sangeet and the fast rhythm of Kathak. Usually what I have seen in these kinds of experiments is that the dancers change the laya and speed of the songs according to the speed of the dance they want, but in doing so they break the beauty of the songs.”
Explaining how she met this challenge, Monisa points out that she kept the same taal, melody and speed as it used to be in the respective songs and tried to merge the Kathak bol in the same jaati, the pattern in which the song is based.
This is not the first time that dancers have teamed up with up with Rabindra Sangeet in a performance in the Indian capital. At various points of time classical Indian dancers such as Sonal Mansingh, Yamini Krishnamurthy and Kiran Sehgal have given performances to the strains of beautiful Tagore songs -- typically rich in evocative lyrics, matching melody and rhythmic structure. Of late, renowned Odissi dancer and teacher Madhavi Mudgal choreographed Odissi and Kathak dances to blend with Tagore songs celebrating the six seasons.
Here's looking forward to more such fusion in the future.