My latest dance review, in today’s Chronicle:
“f you’ve never heard of the North Indian classical dance form Kathak, San Francisco’s Pandit Chitresh Das has one word for you: rhythm. As in, bring-the-house-down, feel-it-in-your-bones rhythm.
Two years ago, on his never-ending quest to take Kathak to the American masses, the 62-year-old Das teamed with tap dance phenom Jason Samuels Smith for a cross-cultural conversation. In “India Jazz Progressions,” unveiled Friday at the Cowell Theater before a national tour, he’s brought more voices along for the ride. Watch out, Savion Glover; you may have “Da Funk,” but you don’t have Chitresh Das.
No matter that one form uses five pounds of ankle bells and the other metal taps; no matter that one evolved centuries ago in the Mughal palaces, the other much more recently on the streets of New York. Das brings East and West together and lets them talk straight. At stage left stands the jazz ensemble – drums, bass, piano. At stage right, the Indian musicians – tabla, sitar, sarangi. When their voices first begin to mix, it is strange talk indeed.
But then Das’ leading disciple, Charlotte Moraga, comes whirling on, stamping out ear-teasing percussive patterns in that vigorous, upright Kathak way. She calls out the tal – or rhythmic cycle, which in Kathak can be anything from your standard eight-count phrase to more mind-bending variations, like nine and a half beats – and she chants her variations – taka di, taka di, da, da. When tapper Chloe Arnold comes hoofing on, she’s doing a very different thing, arms flying, hips swinging, feet sliding and hitting. But they have an instant rapport, and they’re trading riffs in no time.
The solos and duets that follow are an embarrassment of riches.”
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