Meditation in Motion

The Chitresh Das Dance Company performs kathak in San Francisco on Sept. 15, 2008.

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 15, 2008 - Classical Indian dance typically tells stories of Hindu gods, and the recent performance by the Chitresh Das Dance Company at the Asia Society Northern California center was no exception.

The Bay Area-based ensemble, under the artistic guidance of the great master Pandit Chitresh Das, showcased the charm and playful nature of the North Indian dance kathak, a dynamic performance art form that revolves around the great Sanskrit epics the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Puranas.

One of six major classical dance forms in India, kathak emphasizes coordination, rhythm, breathing, and stamina and endurance (dancers wear percussive ankle bells that weigh four pounds each). Adding another layer of complexity, the movements are performed to intricate 9.5, 13, and 16-beat cycles.

Embracing these challenges, performers Charlotte Moraga, Siebi Lee, Farah Yasmeen Shaikh, Joanna Meinl, Rachna Nivas, Anjali Nath, Rina Mehta, and Dmitra Smith danced with grace, passion, and contagious enthusiasm.

The Chitresh Das Dance Company, founded in 1980, is creating some of the most exciting productions in Indian dance today, producing events that have international impact. It has also focused on preserving Indian classical traditions through its schools in the US and India. “Yoga is the essence of what we are, how we train ourselves,” explained Pandit Das. “That is the important legacy of the future.”

The evening program, which offered guests an intimate, behind-the-scenes view of Pandit Das teaching kathak, concluded with a discussion of ayurveda, the “science of life,” which imbues kathak dance.

Ayurveda is focused on the everyday, preserving harmony, balance, health, and the interconnections between mind and body through meditation, massage, and yoga. Pandit Das exclaimed, “Health, science, and art—all as one. That is the real universal health!”

For more videos, photos, and information on kathak dance, visit Chitresh Das Dance Company (CDDC) & Chhandam School.

Reported by Amanda Huffman, Northern California Center