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Kathak Rangamanch Pravesh: Arshia Sharma

Pallavi Nagesha

Kathak Rangamanch Pravesh - A Divine Journey through Srimad Bhagavatam

Arshia Sharma

On Sunday June 30, Arshia Sharma, student of Moumita Banerjee performed her first solo Kathak debut at the Littleton High School auditorium. The performance was a perfect blend of classical dance, storytelling, and spiritual expression. The evening was a testament to the timeless beauty of Kathak and the eternal wisdom of Srimad Bhagavatam. The theme picked by Vandana Sharma, Arshia’s mother, was an inspired one. This ancient scripture, rich with tales of devotion, dharma, and divine play or leela, provided a profound narrative canvas for the Rangamanch Pravesh. Srimad Bhagavatam is renowned for its leelas, or divine play, which are stories that illustrate the divine activities and attributes of Krishna and other avatars of Vishnu. These leelas are not merely mythological tales but are seen as spiritual narratives that impart profound philosophical and ethical lessons. Arshia’s performance depicted Krishna’s Bal leela or childhood plays from his birth to his lifting of mount Govardhan and Raas leela or the dance of love with the Gopis. Especially that between Radha and Krishna representing one of the most profound and complex relationships between the divine and the human. Their relationship transcends the physical and earthly, embodying the purest form of love, devotion, and unity with the divine.Their story is a timeless reminder of the soul's potential to achieve divine realization and eternal bliss through unwavering love and devotion.

This profound concept was brilliantly choreographed by Guru Moumita Banerjee and deftly executed by Arshia, who is certainly a rising star. Arshia’s entrance amid clouds and sunrise was symbolic of spiritual awakening and her 108 chakkars or spins at the end symbolizes the churn you go through before you can transform. 

Arshia began with Ganesh Vandana, seeking blessing from the remover of obstacles and the embodiment of wisdom and intellect through a series of expressive hand gestures and movements that express devotion and establish a spiritual connection with the audience. By invoking Ganesha's presence, the performers set a serene and auspicious tone, paving the way for the unfolding of the artistic and spiritual journey ahead. She then delved into the rhythmic intricacies of Teentaal, demonstrating mastery over various elements like Uthan, Thaat, and the Ladi from the Lucknow gharana, showcasing her command of the 16-beat cycle. Following a tabla interlude, Arshia captivated the audience with a depiction of the Durgaparan, where she vividly enacted the divine revelation of Yashoda's daughter to Kamsa, embodying the power of Shakti.

The celebration continued with a joyous portrayal of Krishna’s birth and his arrival in Gokul, performed in Raag Jaiwanti Todi and Ahir Bhairav. This was complemented by a bhajan depicting the deep affection between Yashoda and Krishna, and the Govardhan leela. Arshia brought to life Krishna’s playful mischief in the Makhan Chor episode, where her dynamic Gat Bhav vividly transported the audience to the scenes of Krishna's childhood antics and divine revelations. 

In the pure dance segment, Arshia showcased her technical proficiency through intricate Tatkar sequences and complex Parans, highlighting the beauty of rhythmic movement. Her storytelling prowess shone in the Kaliya Daman episode, capturing Krishna's heroic battle with the serpent Kaliya through expressive gazes and dynamic footwork.

Arshia then engaged in a riveting Sawal Jawab duet with the tabla, displaying an impressive interplay of rhythm and precision. The performance continued with devotional verses from the Krishnastakam set to Raag Bageshri, and a lyrical depiction of Krishna’s joyous dance, embodying the essence of Vrindavan. In a dynamic exploration of Basant Taal, Arshia performed compositions like Shikari Tukda and Chakradhar Tihai, showcasing her rhythmic virtuosity. The performance concluded with a heartwarming portrayal of Radha and Krishna's playful interactions where Arshia's expressive abhinaya conveyed their deep, unconditional love, followed by the grand finale of Chaturang, featuring an awe-inspiring sequence of 108 spins, encapsulating the rich tapestry of Kathak through its poetic and rhythmic elements.

As a master choreographer, Moumita Banerjee seamlessly blended the intricate footwork and spins of the Jaipur Gharana with the grace and expressiveness of the Lucknow Gharana, creating visually stunning performances that was a treat for the senses. Moumita not only imparted the technical knowledge of Kathak to her Arshia but also a deep love for the art form and its spiritual essence. Her choreographic talent and dedication to preserving and promoting Kathak ensure that her students, like Arshia, shine with spirituality, love, and joy in their performances. 

Supported by an ensemble of first-generation Indian American musicians, each a master in their craft, the performance transcended borders and generations, enriching the cultural tapestry of both India and America. Aditya Shah, Swati Sharma, Pranav Ghatraju, Michael Dwan Singh, Kaavya Valiveti, and Sachit Kurup brought their unique talents to the stage, blending traditional and contemporary styles to create a rich musical backdrop.

As first-generation Indian Americans, these artists embody a bridge between their rich cultural heritage and the contemporary American landscape, enriching classical dance and music with innovation and dedication. Their contribution ensures the continued evolution and appreciation of Indian classical arts for future generations.

As the MC for this extraordinary event and a classical dancer myself, I am deeply committed to advancing the arts. It was an honor to guide the audience through this celebration of Indian classical music and dance, highlighting the immense talent and dedication of these remarkable artists.

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