Manjari holds sway with Sufi Kathak
“I dance in surrender to Him,
To His Glory, to His Love, to His World
With a lilting melody and a strong rhythm…
A dance of separation and union…of hope…
A pattern of light and shade…
The fire of the eternal dance of moths.”
It was a magical evening in Delhi the other day as danseuse Manjari Chaturvedi did just that. The aptly titled 'Raqs-e-Ruh' (dance of the soul) showcased her dazzling presentation of 'Sufi Kathak'. In a departure from the run of the mill Kathak concert, Manjari performed to the music of the Qawwals from Awadh, Manganiars from Rajasthan and classical musicians from Lucknow.
Right from the word go, Manjari captured the imagination of the audience. The curtains went up with her dance to the flute and the composition of Halka, halka saroor, rendered by the Qawwals. Later came the piece Rang hai re, a composition of Hazrat Amir Khusro, which represents his love for the beloved (a metaphor for the Almighty). Other popular dance items were Tere ishq ne nachaya, a verse of Baba Bulle Shah presented by the Rajasthani Manganiars and the magnificent finale Mast Kalander, also with the Rajasthani troupe. Throughout the show she blended her Kathak repertoire with the mystic elements of Sufism such as whirling dervishes and its characteristic intensity.
The concert was truly a sampler of Manjari's beautiful language of the body. All through the spiritual element was in evidence and the danseuse's fluidity and grace held the audience in thrall. Often one got the feeling that one had touched eternity.
“Sufi Kathak brings out the folk and ancient sounds and spirits of Sufi tradition through the energy and spirit of Kathak. Manjari is the first danseuse to use the innocence of folk music as a base for her classical Kathak concerts, creating a new repertoire for Kathak, using poetry,” says a press release.
Manjari is clearly an eclectic artiste. She attempts to build an interface with varied forms such as the Sufi music of Rajasthan, Kashmir, Qawwali of Awadh, poetry of Punjab's Bulleh Shah and Hazrat Amir Khusro along with the folk music of Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. She has also danced to the compositions of Rumi, Kabir and Lalon and the Bauls.
A danseuse of the Lucknow gharana of Kathak and a post graduate in environmental sciences, Manjari has made waves with her unique style which incorporates subtle innovations while preserving the pristine classical style. Trained in classical Kathak by Guru Pandit Arjun Mishra, she refined the detailing of 'abhinaya' (expressions) under the aegis of Kalanidhi Narayan and Priyadarshini Govind. She has also worked at Nrityagram in conjunction with the late Guru Protima Bedi and Guru Kumudini Lakhia.
Manjari's latest concert was held to mark a decade of Sufi Kathak and the launch of the first Sufi Kathak Foundation in India. The Foundation has ambitious aims, including 'holding dance and music workshops and developing artistes into performers and providing impetus to their economic self-reliance'; financially assisting needy students and artistes, especially small town residents and retired artistes, along with providing employment and social support; incorporating genres such as Awadhi Qawwali in the initial stages and at a later stage art forms such as Kashmiri Sufi singing and creating centres for spiritual dance and music along with folk and classical dance.