Kathak master Birju Maharaj makes a rare U.S. appearance in SF on Sunday. My ditty in the Chronicle:

“With 15 pounds of bells on his ankles and sweat in his silver hair, Birju Maharaj stamps out ever more complex rhythms. Sometimes they sound uncannily like birds singing or rain falling. But always, just when you think you’ve lost the pattern, Maharaj brings it together on the first beat of the new cycle. When that happens, it’s like suddenly seeing an image in a constellation of stars, or glimpsing divine design in the veins of a leaf: a spiritual experience.

“All the rhythms come from nature,” Maharaj, the undisputed living master of Indian Kathak dance, explained by phone from his school in Delhi. “Nature surrounds us. The moon is dancing, the air is dancing. Dance is the movement of the universe. Rhythm is our heartbeat, until our last breath.”

Few practitioners of Kathak – one of eight classical Indian dance forms – can make people see or hear that the way Maharaj can. It’s no surprise that Kathak fans, and other lovers of Indian culture, will flock to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre on Sunday for one of the 70-year-old guru’s rare U.S. appearances.
Kathak is enjoying a resurgence these days with schools proliferating here and abroad. Maharaj, born into a family of legendary Kathak dancers, is largely responsible for that trend. “It’s reached a point where certain dancers might try to deny this,” said Anuradha Nag of San Jose, the producer of Sunday’s concert and a disciple of Maharaj for 25 years. “But everybody is following in his footsteps.”

With accompaniment by the virtuoso tabla player Zakir Hussain, Maharaj’s solo performance will highlight Kathak’s insanely musically complex game of one-upmanship between dancer and drummer, the swift turns and powerful stampings. But it will also showcase the subtler artistry that Maharaj is often credited with restoring.”

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