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India Jazz Suites: Kathak Meets Tap

Press Release

India Jazz Suites is an explosive collaboration between Pandit Chitresh Das, one of India’s foremost Kathak masters, and Jason Samuels Smith, the Emmy Award–winning tap dancer renowned for his amazing footwork in Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk. Indian classical musicians and a stellar jazz trio perform live to complete this powerful artistic exchange. The result is high entertainment that crosses all boundaries of age and culture―a blast of incredible speed and power, grace and beauty, epic storytelling and the pure joy of dance.

Established in 2004, India Jazz Suites is a result of the meeting of Pandit Chitresh Das and Jason Samuels Smith at the 2004 American Dance Festival. Both men, considered masters of their craft, were struck by each other’s uncanny talents and immediately recognized the connection between their respective styles. What formed from this meeting is an East-meets-West collaborative experiment combining complex rhythms and patterns from two of the most innovative men in contemporary dance today.

The performance appears more of a ‘conversation’ between the two men than a ‘fusion’ of styles. Das comments, “There will be a lot of spontaneous rhythmic exploration. But we will be dancing our own systems: him improvising in his tradition, and me in mine. And then we try to understand each other.” Smith adds, “I think it’s a powerful message, showing that people from two different backgrounds can communicate. We want to show the world that anybody can do it, any generation, any style, any class, any race, anything.”

Pandit Chitresh Das is first and foremost a master and virtuosic performer of the classical Kathak tradition. Based on his concept of “innovation within tradition,” Das explores the boundaries of Kathak technique and performance, creating compelling, new works and techniques that are inventive, yet deeply rooted in Kathak tradition. Trained from the age of nine by his guru, Pandit Ram Narayan Misra, Pandit Das was schooled in both major Kathak traditions, embodying each in his artistry: the graceful

and sensual elements of the Lucknow school combined with the dynamic and powerful rhythms and movements of the Jaipur School. His big break came when he was invited by Pandit Ravi Shankar to perform in the first Rimpa Festival in Benaras. Das has since performed throughout the world in many of the most prestigious festivals and venues including, the Lincoln Center, the Olympics, Surya Festival, and the American Dance Festival among many others. Das is a recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the U.S. government bestows upon a traditional artist. Pandit Das continues to perform, teach and give workshops at his schools, Chhandam Nritya Bharati (Mumbai and Kolkata) and the 30-year old Chhandam School of Kathak Dance (North California). He has trained many dancers who have gone on to establish their own careers in Kathak dance.

Jason Samuels Smith, 31, has emerged as a multi-talented leader in the art form of tap in less than a decade. He won both an Emmy and American Choreography Award for “Outstanding Choreography” for the opening number of the 2003 Jerry Lewis/MDA Telethon in a tribute to the late Gregory Hines. He starred in the cast of Tony Award winning Broadway show Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk. He performed in the critically acclaimed Imagine Tap!, Debbie Allen production Sammy (a tribute to the life of Sammy Davis Jr.), Soul Possessed and the AMC television series Cool Women. Samuels founded tap company A.C.G.I. (Anybody Can Get It) and is the co-founder of the JaJa Productions band, creating original jazz-influenced hip hop music.

India Jazz Suites was chosen as the #1 Dance Performance of 2005 by the San Francisco Chronicle and received the prestigious Isadora Duncan Dance Award (Izzie) for Best Ensemble Performance of the Year. In 2010, India Jazz Suites was also chosen as one of the top 10 performances by the Boston Globe. Despite the 36-year age difference between the two men, the chemistry between them is unmistakable. This electric show has proven to be on the forefront of dance innovation, further progressing contemporary tap and the more traditional Kathak styles as we know it.

World Music/CRASHarts presents Pandit Chitresh Das & Jason Samuels Smith India Jazz Suites: Kathak Meets Tap on Friday, April 20, 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 21, 8pm and Sunday, April 22, 3pm at the Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston. Tickets are $40.  Tickets and information available at www.WorldMusic.org.

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