CriticalDance Forum

Chitresh Das
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Author:  LMCtech [ Wed Oct 09, 2002 12:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Chitresh Das

A review from the SF Examiner, the middle item.

Fall dance harvest
Examiner Dance Critic

Chitresh Das styles himself as the Balanchine of Indian dance. Just as Balanchine introduced ballet to a country that thought the form inherently foreign, so Das came to Marin 30 years ago to teach the "blondes and brunettes" Kathak, one of India's six classical forms of dance.

Author:  LMCtech [ Mon Nov 08, 2004 1:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Chitresh Das

From the SF Chronicle.

Mysticism, rhythm, dance intermingle in 'Sampurnam'
Ann Murphy, Special to The Chronicle

By 1980 he had his own dance troupe, the Chitresh Das Dance Company. Today, the master teacher and dancer operates one of the largest classical Indian dance schools in North America.

In celebration of Das' 60th birthday and his 33 years in the Bay Area, the company presented the world premiere of "Sampurnam," meaning wholeness, last weekend at the Cowell Theater at San Francisco's Fort Mason.

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 12:03 pm ]
Post subject: 

From the SF Chronicle.

Bring in da noise, bring in da classical Indian dance. East meets West in a one-of-a-kind collaboration.

Rachel Howard, Special to The Chronicle

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

One man was 23, the other 60. One wore tap shoes, the other four pounds of bells tied to each ankle. But when Kathak master Chitresh Das found himself backstage at the American Dance Festival with tap prodigy Jason Samuels Smith, he knew he had to seize his fate.

"I said, this is my chance, I have to get his attention," Das said recently, his aging but nimble body slick with sweat from his day's discipline. "So I started to dance and Jason says, 'How can you do that with your bare feet?' "


Author:  mehunt [ Sat Nov 12, 2005 12:55 am ]
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What a fantastic show! Anyone who's in the Bay area should try to catch this -- (India Jazz Suites' run ends on Saturday) because this was just too much fun. Call ahead to the Cowell Theater though -- it was sold out tonight!


Author:  kurinuku [ Sat Sep 30, 2006 4:52 am ]
Post subject: 

When Many Feet Make Loud Work
by RACHEL HOWARD for the New York Times
published: September 24, 2006

He was talking about his proudest achievement, Kathak Yoga: not the latest exercise craze, but rather a practice of movement meditation that updates one of India’s eight official classical dance forms, as deemed by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s rough equivalent to the National Endowment for the the Arts.

Traditionally Kathak has been passed on through intensive study with a single teacher and performed in long solo improvisations that can last for hours at a stretch. But this more modern form features dancers continually reciting the basic rhythm while embellishing upon it with their feet.

Author:  mehunt [ Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:36 pm ]
Post subject: 

Here's my report on the Kathak festival -- quite an amazing event!

Kathak at the Crossroads: Innovation within Tradition

For three days at the end of September, San Francisco played host to one of the biggest gathering of Indian dance gurus in the country. The brainchild of the Bay Area’s resident kathak guru Pandit Chitresh Das, this symposium cum festival brought a roster of kathak experts whose names might not be familiar to the casual dance-goer, but who, in Indian dance circles – represent the legends of this classical form.

The evening performances, held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, were long – running for at least three to three and a half hours – more Indian dance than I had ever seen all put together in my life. But the sum of it made for a fascinating primer on the form, as well as a heartening look at an age-old genre of dance that is undergoing conscious reinvention at the hands of its own preservers.

For many kathak fans, without doubt, the highlight was the appearance on Friday night of the legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj, descendant of the famous Maharaj family whose influence on modern kathak cannot be underestimated. Credited with bringing the element of choreographed theater into the world of kathak, Maharaj was in his own time a modernizer and innovator. Perhaps he still is, if the busy schedule on his website ( is anything to go by.

True to the Lucknow gharana’s style, (Maharaj is considered this school of kathak’s leading exponent) his invocation to Govinda had an expressively elegant and subtle character. Clad simply in white with a gold and saffron belt, Maharaj gave us a slow burn of twining arms and hands along with the occasional whimsical quirk of a brow.

Is it because of the nature of the dance’s structure, or because of the gurus’ natural pedagogical leanings that each performance became a bit of a lesson? Whatever the reason, for those of us who have had little exposure to the form, it was a welcome part of the performance. It was during this point that I realized that something on the order of 80% of this audience lived and breathed these dauntingly complex rhythms – they clapped along with the musicians easily and were delighted by the challenge of a nine and a half beat metric. I’m lucky if I can discern the difference between ¾ time and 6/8 time, so unraveling the complex rhythms and bols of kathak, learning the tihais had become a little like trying to learn the game of chess simply by watching. I was fine up to a point, and then inevitably someone castled.

Maharaj, though, interjects small nuggets into his performance. “We see that there are different views, different ways,” he says, speaking of the symposium’s focus on the modernization of kathak, “but always, it’s dhaa-dhin-dhin-dhaa,” -- the simplest start to the rhythmic 16 beat cycle that kathak dancers call the “teental.” “The teental is symmetrical,” he continues, “but it always reaches to ‘1,’ to Krishna, to home.”

Maharaj, at 68, is a charming raconteur as well, and probably could have danced an entire evening of stories by himself. In one segment, he does what the jazz musicians call “trading fours” with the tabla player, using the rhythms of his ankle bells and the rolls of the tabla to depict a heroine (bells) being playfully chased through the forest by a hero (the tabla). And a padhant or recitation of rhythms, sketching out various kinds of birds, including a chicken running down the street with her chicks scurrying after her, was both dazzling and amusing.

Sharing the stage that evening with Maharaj was an accomplished group of musicians, including the renowned sarangi player, Pandit Ramesh Mishra.

Notable performances from the other dancers included that of Maharaj’s student Madhumita Roy, who has trained in both the Jaipur and Lucknow gharanas. Her explanation of the tukara as a rhythm that to her feels like a person trying to move forward even as someone else pulls them back from behind emerged compellingly in her composition depicting the childish impulses of Krishna, held back by his sense of duty as a king. A technically brilliant Prashant Shah also startled the audience with unusually secure turns and lightning fast footwork, as did Charlotte Moraga’s whirlwind manege of fast turns around the stage in Chitresh Das’ “Pancha Jati.”

Kathak, especially the Jaipur gharana brand, lends itself to a kind of rock star, virtuoso performance and it’s that side of kathak that comes forward most forcefully in Das’ recent collaboration with tapper Jason Samuels Smith in “India Jazz Suites.” Less a “fusion” per se, and more of a East-shakes-hands-with-West, this showstopper piece -- which features both Das’ Indian musicians as well as the jazz compositions of Marcus Shelby – brought down the house on Saturday night.

It was an evening that started at a high level of energy, with the wild and hot-blooded Rajendra Gangani, and a more delicate, but equally intense performance by Saswati Sen (also a disciple of Birju Maharaj). Sen’s compositions to a time cycle of nine and a half beats – a gift to her from Maharaj – was both seductive and a challenge intellectually. Everywhere in that rhythmically savvy crowd, we were visibly trying to keep up with the beat. In the dark, I could even see Gangani, who slipped into an empty seat after the break, keeping time along with her.

The man of the hour though, was Das himself, who offered a tour de force solo performance before “India Jazz Suites.” In the wings, we could just make out Smith who was watching intently and keeping time with his tap shoes. Before embarking on a story taken from the Ramayana, Das, ever the teacher, elucidated on the improvisational aspects of the dance. “I’m taking my chances with him,” he said, indicating the table player, “in kathak, this is called…’risk-taking.’ That is the beautiful thing in kathak.”

Calculated risk-taking in fact is the hallmark of Jason Samuel Smith’s style of tap, which pays explicit tribute to such gurus of tap as Jimmy Slyde and Peg Leg Bates. The immensely likeable and accomplished Smith has the relaxed, unassuming air of a guy in love dance, and with the ability to jam and play that his considerable skills gives him. As Das once said to me, “That is aananta-- the ultimate happiness -- the joy of dance.”

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Oct 03, 2006 11:36 am ]
Post subject: 

Review from the SF Chronicle.

The downbeat and mystical meld amid flash, whirl of Kathak dance

Rachel Howard, Special to the Chronicle

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

"The 'one' is Krishna," Birju Maharaj told an entranced audience Saturday at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater. "All the beats want to reach toward Krishna, to one, to home," said the 68-year-old master of Indian Kathak dance. "You are going everywhere, but you are coming back home."

By "one" he meant the downbeat, the start of a new rhythmic cycle and the mystical moment of wholeness in Kathak, which is as much about musicianship as movement. And over the next hour he took his audience on ever more surprising journeys there, toying with time so that you could almost hear it in three dimensions, testing silence to the point that you wondered how he could ever reconnect, and always, astonishingly, arriving home with perfect surety.


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