In 1996,Nikita Moghe was looking forward to filling out an entry form and participating in Indradhanu,an initiative by Pune Festival that created a platform for budding artistes. Little did she know that her trip to pick up an entry form would result in an 18-year-long association. Krishnakantji (Kudale) was looking for someone to choreograph a dance sequence for the inaugural ceremony of the festival. He asked me if I could manage to do it on such a short notice. I took up the challenge, says Moghe,who put up a spectacular show with 21 artistes performing on the song Gorya Gorya. At that time,she was choreographing for Subal Sarkars Sugandha.
The next year,Moghe choreographed the Ganesh Aradhana with over 40 dancers and also conceptualised a lavani performance. I have a soft spot for lavani. Before me,lavani dancers from various tamasha groups had already performed at Pune Festival but there is a difference in their performance and the ones my troupe does. I polish the dance a bit,give it a theme and showcase it in a way so as to appeal to everyone in the audience, says Moghe.
The performance started an inward journey of sorts for Moghe,leading her to discover the ways in which lavani could be interpreted. Now,in the middle of choreographing a lavani fusion featuring Ishaa Koppikar,Urmila Matondkar,Varsha Usgaonkar,Sharvari Jamenis and Tejaswini Lonari for the grand finale of Pune Festivals silver jubilee edition at Yashwantrao Chavhan Auditorium,she shares how the dance form has evolved for her.
Moghe says that it was not until the year 2000 that she finally found the right twist for lavani. I watched Birju Maharaj and Yamunabai Waikar performing on the same stage. First,Birju Maharaj performed his Kathak piece and then Yamunabai performed her lavani piece. It sparked the idea of creating a jugalbandi with Kathak and lavani, says Moghe.
She adds that both the dance forms have similar beat patterns,which made it easy for her to alternate between them. Both have a base of Indian classical dance. I am a trained Kathak dancer,so it was not difficult for me to compose a Kathak piece and juxtapose it with lavani. I first performed the jugalbandi at the festival in 2000. It became an instant hit, says Moghe.
She was flooded with invitations to perform at events across the world and she took her troupe to Paris and Switzerland,among other places. Even today,13 years after the jugalbandi was first performed,people specially request that we perform the piece. It has become my signature piece, she says.
But introducing new flavours to the dance form is a challenge that Moghe enjoys. In 2006,she created another masterpiece,a lavani and bhangra fusion. The choreography was mainly lavani but the chorus was bhangra. I had to work hard on getting the music right,so it would sound like a seamless piece. I fused Lak lak chanderi with Dhitang re Dhitang,which was the latest Marathi film song at the time, she says. Last year,she created a lavani-mujra dance piece featuring Varsha Usgaonkar,Urmila Kanetkar,Bhargavi Chirmule and Tejaswini Lonari.