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Music And Dance Reviews : Kathak Dance Fest

September 01, 1986|SHELLEY BAUMSTEN

Anjani Ambegaokar capped the Kathak Dance Festival Saturday at the Anaheim Marriott with more than an hour of splendid dance drama and pure dance--but if not too little, it was certainly too late.

By then a thinning crowd had sat without intermission through three hours of speeches, student performances and a disappointing guest appearance by Sitara Devi. Children were falling asleep, grown-ups were getting glassy-eyed and nobody protested when Ambegaokar cut two dances from her program.

Too bad, because she just scratched the surface of this rich classical Indian dance form. One sequence demonstrated three classical kathak idioms. Ambegaokar's elegant carriage and smooth gliding motions graced the slow measures of thaat . Close collaboration with her musicians fused the dancing, chanting, and drumming of parana/toda/tukra , and she showed commanding technique in the concentrated footwork of tatkar.

"A Dadra-Geet" cast Ambegaokar as a woman separated from her lover by a violent rainstorm. Her vivid gestures established needles of rain and the rapid swelling of the river, as formal facial expressions depicted devotion, longing, fear, despair and joy within the framework of classical sentiments.

Ambegaokar closed with "Tarana," a dazzling display of rhythmic complexity and technical virtuosity. Flashing spins ended on a syllable and stopped on a dime. Bare feet tapped lightly, slapped resoundingly and beat out a tattoo on the floor. Shuddering ankles set 10 pounds of bells jingling delicately and then ringing raucously as she held her torso still in complete isolation.

If Sitara Devi's dancing was less impressive, the wonder is that she could dance at all. Now in her fifth decade of performing, she suffered the effects of a 36-hour journey from India and the handicap of working with unfamiliar musicians in a highly collaborative art form.

Devi's hour-and-a-half performance showed expressive depth and authority, but exposed technical deficiencies in short bursts of blurry, underpowered dancing.

The inexhaustible Ustad Zakir Hussain provided superb tabla accompaniment, joined by fellow instrumentalists Ustad Gulab Khan, David Philipson and Jef Feldman. Mala Ganguli played harmonium and sang. Pandit Sundarlalji Gangani contributed the lyrics and some of the vocals.

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