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Friday, April 25, 2014


(Manesh Maharaj)

Manesh Maharaj studied dance and music in India for seven years and in “Satvika”, he honours his Guruma, Sushri Madhurita Sarang. Smt. Heather Parker Lewis reviews this live performance recorded on DVD by Maharaj who is the Artistic Director of Kala Darshan.

Satvika offers us an hour of pure magic. The production of Satvika is a milestone in the history of classical Indian dance in South Africa. It is the first professional DVD of a live, solo Kathak recital to be released in South Africa by a South African artist.

Satvika is a celebration of Kathak, the classical dance style from North India and Manesh Maharaj, dancing to international standards in relation to both form and footwork, holds one captive as, with his skill, dedication and insight, he pushes boundaries and explores the possibilities of this beautiful and exciting classical dance form.

The DVD will keep you riveted to your seat as - from the first opening piece, that captures the sculptural beauty of Lord Shiva's Tandav and Karanas (adapted from the Bharata Natyam repertoire), through Shuddha Nritta (pure dance) to the final Tarana and exhilarating, spirited Jugalbandhi - one is swept away emotionally by Manesh's breathtaking multiple spin-turns (chakkars), dramatic and absolutely mesmerizing footwork (tatkar).

In the item Bhavani Stuti, through the sincerity of his expression (abhinaya and bhavam) and detail of the hand gestures (mudras), one experiences his deep connection with the spiritual aspects of classical dance.

Despite the intensity and length of his performance his energy level never falters for a moment. His vigour amazes and it speaks to the hours of practice, the love of his art form and the sacrifices that this level of dance demands of the artist.

This is a polished presentation of the ancient art of the Kathakar, the story-teller, and the camera captures the detail both in the wide angles and the close-ups. The background is kept simple, there are no frills, so there is nothing to distract; one can just concentrate on the dance itself. As a result I felt I was right there in the audience. I particularly appreciated how, because of the camera close-ups of the stage, one was able to appreciate that intimacy between dancer and musicians which is especially important in Kathak as the rhythmic syllables (bols) are called and the challenges met as dancer and musician almost duel with each other until the crescendo is reached and they meet on the final beat that coincides with the first beat of the rhythmic cycle (the sum).

Those less familiar with Kathak will also find the information provided between each item of value.

One cannot end a review of Satvika without praising the students of Kala Darshan who accompany their guru on stage - either on tabla or harmonium, as padhant (reciting the dance bols) and playing the manjira (hand-held cymbals) or as vocalist. Their confidence and composure bear testimony to the talent developed and nurtured under expert tutelage.

Srimathi Padmini Naidoo a qualified Bharata Natyam dancer who studied in India under esteemed Guru Madurai R. Muralidharan (renowned for his teaching, choreography and musical compositions), spoke the words of commendation after the performance. One must echo her sentiments when she honours Manesh Maharaj as a person of stature who has a passion for his art, who is talented and creative, but whose captivating personality also encompasses humility, kindness and respect.

Manesh is indeed a complete artist and this spell-binding presentation by a dancer who commands the stage can only be experienced as an enrichment by all students of Indian dance, whether they are performing classical dance (as in Kathak, Bharata Natyam and Odissi), or folk dance.

SATVIKA - A kathak DVD by Shri Manesh Maharaj is available at the following outlets in South Africa: DURBAN - Sunrise prayer shop (Brickfield Road - Overport), Roopanand Bros (Springfield), Manilall Ratanjee (Chatsworth), and AA Bollywood (Royal Palm Hotel - Umhlanga). - Heather Parker Lewis:

Heather Parker Lewis is a qualified Bharata Natyam dancer, an honorary life-member of Vadhini Indian Arts Academy and an active member of Odissi Niketan Africa. She is the author of Dance of Bliss - the sacred dance of India, the first book on classical Indian dance to be published in South Africa. Currently she is studying the Natya Sastra and temple sculptures with the intention of publishing a second book in 2014 on the ancient origins and history of Indian dance and the position of the dancer in society.