One of India’s most revered classical artists, Pandit Rajendra Gangani, performed to a packed house at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatre on Saturday 28 October to celebrate Sydney-based Swastik Institute of Dance’s 10th anniversary.
The living legend – and the winner of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (India’s highest honour for performing arts) – had travelled all the way from India for the show, during which he enthralled the audiences by showcasing different nuances of Kathak.
“Bollywood shows in Sydney are a dime a dozen, but this is the first time that we have experienced a pure Kathak show,” said the artistic director of Swastik, Sumati Nagpal, on the occasion.
The evening kicked off with five performances created by Swastik’s youngest students. Inspired by Indian cinema and performed to backing tracks, they set the scene for an eventful night, which warranted thunderous applause and standing ovations.
In the second segment of the show, there were more dance performances by Swastik students – but with a twist. In the lead-up the show, Pandit Rajendra Gangani has conducted an intensive six-day Kathak workshop in Sydney. While the workshop was conducted at Swastik’s Harris Park studio, it was open to everyone and not just Swastik students. More than 80 Kathak students participated in this workshop. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from the legendary Pandit Rajendra Gangani and the four pieces created during these workshops were part of the second segment.
Accompanying the dancers on stage were live musicians – Yogesh Gangani Ji on tabla and Vinod Gangani Ji on harmonium had also flown all the way from India to be part of the workshop and show. Sydney-based Maharshi Ji on tabla and Rashpaal Ji on sitar were also part of the live-musician ensemble.
But it was the doyenne of Kathak – Pandit Rajendra Gangani – who eventually brought the house down. His performance took the audience on a journey, which started with depictions of Indian mythological characters – from the grace and might of Lord Shiva to the child-like demeanour of Lord Krishna.
The living legend performed three different Kathaktaals – Chautaal, Roopak and Teen – on three different ragas: Bhopali, Yaman and Shankar, and left the audience in raptures. Jugalbandi – in which the dancer and the tabla player create the same sounds; the dance with his mathematically precise footwork, and the tabla player with his percussions – proved to be enormously popular with the audience.
Pandit Rajendra Gangani’s performance hit vastly contrasting notes during the night. One minute he brought down the sound of his ghungroo(traditional dancing bells) to a mere whisper – leaving the room in pin-drop silence and audience absolutely mesmerised. Another minute he burst into vigorous twirls and resulted in a thunderous applause.
At the end of the show, Pandit Rajendra Gangani received a standing ovation from the packed auditorium, with fans queuing up for photographs with the legend after the show.