Dynamic Feet Dynamic Rhythm Recital at Tata Theatre NCPA : Rendezvous with Pandit Chitresh Das Known as The Fastest Feet in Rhythm

Dynamic Feet Dynamic Rhythm Recital at Tata Theatre NCPA : Rendezvous with Pandit Chitresh Das Known as The Fastest Feet in Rhythm

Ridhima Sinha
Pandit Chitresh Das poses during a Kathak Recital | Photos: kathak.org
Pandit Chitresh Das poses during a Kathak Recital | Photos: kathak.org

Win tickets to see Pandit Chitresh Das LIVE in concert at this Saturday, July 2  at 7:00 p.m. at the Tata Theatre, NCPA. Just tell us what kind of Classical Indian dance style he performs, post your answer in the comments below, hurry!

Wednesday was one special day.  I had the honor of interacting with one of India’s finest Kathak dancers, Pandit Chitresh Das. Pandit Das is a disciple of the great Kathak guru, Pandit Ram Narayan Misra. He grew up in the institution, Nritya Bharati, founded by his parents, Nrityacharya Prohlad Das and Nilima Das, where many of India’s greatest gurus came to perform and teach. 

Das was a child prodigy who quickly attained national fame, performing at the age of eleven with the legendary tabla maestro Pandit Samta Prasadji.

Pandit Chitresh Das at a Kathak Yoga recital
Pandit Chitresh Das at a Kathak Yoga recital

In 1970, Pandit Chitresh Das moved to the United States on a Fellowship to teach Kathak at the University of Maryland. Pandit Das’ desire to reach out to people across the globe led to the formation of his own dance company and school, the Chitresh Das Dance Company and the Chhandam School of Kathak. Twenty-eight years later, the school has transformed into one of the world’s foremost Indian classical dance companies and the largest Kathak institution in North America and India. Pandit Das introduced me to Kathak Yoga, a contemporary form of dance which is the perfect blend of innovation with tradition.

Pandit Chitresh Das
Pandit Chitresh Das
I spoke to the dance maestro about his love for Indian classical dance, his inspiration and his upcoming performance.

He began by talking to me about the evolution of Kathak Yoga which follows in the footsteps of the great sages of Ancient India. Growing up in Kolkata, Pandit Das and his mother would visit several Kali temples and the deep respect for Hindu mythology that his family instilled in him inspired him to learn dance.  Kathak Yoga amalgamates the performer’s stamina and endurance with his weight bearing abilities (the use of dumbbells) This upasana is a message from the dancer’s body to the divine.

Pandit Das in a Ramayana recital
Pandit Das in a Ramayana recital

I was amazed at his remarkable energy levels at the age of 62, when he enacted a little episode from the Ramayana with his impeccable impressions of Raavan and Sita. It is interesting to see an artist change expressions and switch roles several times over and still keep track of the beat and his breathing.  The beauty of Kathak Yoga lies in its evolution which makes it endearing for the younger generation as well. The man could really put tap dancers half his age to shame with his feet briskly moving to the sounds produced by his hands on the tabla.

The goal of his institution is to help children across the globe learn and appreciate this journey of dance from the soul to the Almighty. The school also works with underprivileged kids from red light districts through several NGO. Many of his performances incorporate a social message like the recital that he did on Indian battered women.

Pandit Chitresh Das
Pandit Chitresh Das

To this “ Modern guru in training” Kathak signifies the art of story telling which needs to be passed on to the next generation and he has been refining and disseminating his knowledge for over 40 years now. Pandit Das hopes dancers can understand and respect each other more so they can work with educational institutions to create a generation of children who understand our culture. He feels that once the media devotes significant time to programming on Indian folk and classical tradition, more people will learn about how enriching all this really is.

Pandit Das & Jason Samuels Smith | Photo: kathak.org
Pandit Das & Jason Samuels Smith | Photo: kathak.org

Pandit Das is extremely excited about his upcoming concert in Mumbai. He described how he wants the young boys (he calls them the oily heads) to watch his performance but he also urges senior citizens to appreciate the beauty of dance. I am really looking forward to his recital Dynamic Feet. Dynamic Rhythm. Accompanied by some of India’s finest musicians from Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, Pandit Das will perform at the NCPA this weekend.

Pandit Chitresh Das in a Pranam pose | Photo courtesy: kalyana rupa
Pandit Chitresh Das in a Pranam pose | Photo courtesy: kalyana rupa

I really hope that this powerful and engaging dance form and his school continue to work towards creating awareness about Indian tradition and help open new avenues for his form. To witness the dedication of a man who is referred to as the fastest feet in rhythm and the Master of Kathak, you have to be at the recital this Saturday, July 2  at 7:00 p.m. at the Tata Theatre, NCPA.

Visit his blog www.kathak.org/site/kathak/ for more information on the school and their work and check out more videos on The Chandam School’s official YouTube Channel: chhandam