The Alaknanda Institute of Performing Arts (AIPA), Delhi, presented Indian classical dancers from India, Singapore, and the USA in an enchanting evening of Kathak celebrating ‘Ekam Bharat: Meri Maati Mera Desh’. It was conceived by Alaknanda Dasgupta, the talented Kathak danseuse, choreographer, educator, and the founder and director of AIPA who has defeated cancer with her indomitable spirit and passion for dance. Trained under Guru Munna Lal Shukla and Pt. Birju Maharaj, Alaknanda has been teaching and performing for the past three decades, prioritizing her art against any kind of obstacles.
The evening opened with a Solo performance by Pallavi Sharma, who came from Singapore to participate in ‘Ekam Bharat-Meri Mati Mera Desh’ dancing to Taal Jhaptaal followed by the poem “Sakhi ve mujhse kah kar jaate” from ‘Yashodhara’ Khand-Kavya of the National Hindi poet Shri Maithili Sharan Gupt, emoting the agony of Gautam Sidharth’s wife Yashodhara, who got left behind asleep, when Sidhartha walked away breaking the worldly ties and took sanyasa.
The solo by Tamanna Tikku from New York City came next. Tamanna based her entire presentation on the melodious evening raga Bageshri. Opening with the Paramparik (traditional) Kathak set to Teentala composed and choreographed by Guru Munna Lal Shukla and passed on to her by Guru Alakananda in the tradition of Guru-Shishya Parampara. The Abhinaya piece “Girdhari, kahe rokat mero maga…” also continued in Bageshri set to Addha Theka, was composed and sung by Vijay Parihar. Choreographed by Guru Alaknanda Dasgupta, the Abhinya on this Bandishi Thumri evoked Shringar Rasa
The scintillating duet by Aamrapali Bhandari and Jyotika Joshi from Singapore seemed like extending the boundaries of traditional Kathak. Their style fused from ethnic to modern in approaching a theme like ‘Home: a Destination Towards Self’. Exploring a range of creative expressions ‘to find purpose in belonging by ultimately finding the home within’; it was a profound journey of self-discovery realizing that home is not a place, but a state of being! The use of Dhrupad Aalap-Jod to Tarana Bhairavi enhanced the thoughtfully conceived, imaginatively choreographed and well-rehearsed presentation. There was a solo by Garima Arya presenting Meera Bhajan “Mhare ghar aavo Preetam Pyara….”, before the evening reached its climax with Alaknanda herself taking the floor.
Alaknanda presented an ode to her battle with cancer, and the dance became a lived experience. The internalized fire burning through her ‘Anga-Pratyanga’, every micro-movement and each glance of the dancer touched the heart of the audience. Alaknanda took the metaphor of a river flowing from strength to strength from one phase of her life to another. It was based on a poem “Main Alaknanda, Chapal-Chanchal si ek Nrityaangana / Kaam Nartan, bhajan-kirtan….sabki duaon mein main/ meri duaon mein sab. Dard wo deta raha / aur main ladti rahi, jeet kar nikli” written, composed and choreographed by Abhimanyu Lal.
Opening with the sonoras Sarangi playing the pathos-filled Swaras of Kaushik Dwani as the musical backdrop of the poem being recited, the dance was set to Teentala, where the composition reinforced the importance of togetherness, compassion, and ultimately love for nationhood, where her solo was joined by all the dancers from home and abroad, in a group choreography based on raga Rageshri.
The focus of ‘Ekam Bharat’ was to share the fantastic spirit of dance by showcasing the indomitable spirit of Alaknanda exploring ‘Meri Maati-Mera Desh’. She has been doing this through performances, creating new productions, teaching, conducting workshops, and sharing sessions with artists, and art lovers the beauty and spirit of Indian classical dance which enabled her to overcome a challenging threat like cancer and come victorious!