Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Poetry in Motion

A few days back, I had the good fortune of seeing a Kathak peformance by Shilpa Datar and her disciples. Honestly, till a few years ago, I never went to see any dance. Amongst the fine arts, I liked music, I could appreciate painting and sculpture, but dance? Not really. Thankfully, Vallarie started learning Kathak under the watchful eyes of Guru Maneesha Sathe (who is also Shilpa's Guru) and I have slowly started appreciating this form of expression too. My real teacher in this area is in fact Vallarie herself.
Shilpa Datar (Shilpa-tai, as all her students call her) first gave a solo performance that must remain an inspiration to all her students. I am amazed how she could alternate between so many forms in a matter of seconds. (Milliseconds, actually). At times, she would be blurred motion personified. Before you could bat an eyelid, she would be motionless like a statue, then revert to pirouetting around again. What enabled her to anchor firmly when she would swirl around herself is best known to her only. I know that much physics to understand that a gyroscope stays steady on its end only when it moves and would fall off if it stops - but then Shilpatai is not a gyroscope. If I turn around myself with that speed even ten times, the semicircular canals inside my ears would order my body to collapse to the ground. She didn't, even after countless turns.
If the opening performance was breathtaking, what followed blew my mind apart. Shilpatai also teaches Kathak to hearing-impaired children. And what a performance they gave! Soul-stirring, to say the least. She sat in front of the stage (in the 'pit') and kept giving them directions, much like an opera conductor. But I don't think the children needed it really. They were rehearsed perfectly. There was a spontaneous standing ovation at the end. We all just kept applauding. The joy of being appreciated by a large crowd when standing under the stage lights was writ large on their beaming faces. What must be going on in their silent worlds at that moment? I wish I knew.
But this was not all. At the end of the performance, Shilpatai was back on stage with seven others, and put up a brilliant 'tarana'. I have heard that composition at least a hundred times, but seeing it in Kathak form was something else. I waited with baited breath to see how the climax was going to be done. And it was exactly what it should have been. A crescendo, a fitting finale, the grand climax.
Thank you - Shilpatai and all your students - for giving this unforgettable experience to all of us there in the hall.

No comments: