Strictly Come Dancing

Twelve hours and 30 dancers performing in rapid succession —it’s a format that has made Kathak Marathon both popular and nerve-wracking in the dance circuit of West Bengal.

Written by EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE | Published: April 6, 2012 3:47 am

Twelve hours and 30 dancers performing in rapid succession —it’s a format that has made Kathak Marathon both popular and nerve-wracking in the dance circuit of West Bengal. Five years after it started,the marathon arrives in Delhi,its first stop outside Kolkata. Kathak Marathon 2012 will be held at Triveni Kala Sangam on April 14. “The marathon started as an attempt to get Kathak out of the trap of pre-set choreographies. Kathak is the only Indian classical dance form that can be performed impromptu to any traditional music. Yet,over the decades,we’ve seen dancers presenting only choreographed pieces,” says Chetna Jalan of Padatik,the organiser of the event.

The participants comprise students of eminent gurus and dance schools across India. A group of musicians are chosen by lottery,and paired with a budding dancer on stage. As the musicians begin to play,the dancers create a choreography on the spot. “Dancers get only a few minutes on the stage,so they have to improvise quickly,” says Jalan,a well-known Kathak dancer. This year,there will be eight percussionists,four vocalists and four sarangi or sitar players to accompany the dancers by turn.

The event has gained the support of many Kathak teachers who have entered their students in the marathon,among them Kathak legend Birju Maharaj and Rani Khanam,as well as Lucknow-based Kathak Kendra.

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