Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gretchen Hayden profiled in Boston Globe

This past Saturday, the Boston Globe profiled my kathak teacher, Gretchen Hayden who was performing a concert with the band Natraj that night. While Gretchenji had many a time told us stories about her own training with Chitresh Das, I had never known how it was that she came to kathak dance. Hopefully, the publicity will bring good things to Gretchenji and Chhandika, the school she founded.

Natraj is a Boston-based group that fuses jazz with both Indian classical music and West African traditional repertoire, and includes percussionist Jerry Leake who last month came to our Kathak intensive to discuss the role of tabla and of bols in Hindustani music.

The band takes its name from Shiva's incarnation as the cosmic dancer or "King of the Dance", and so the concert began with an invocation to Shiva, danced and mimed by Gretchenji. Gretchenji returned to the stage to perform with Natraj when they played Hindustani and Hindustani-inspired repertoire, including a comical tale of the young Krishna as a sweet butter thief (which I had seen Gretchenji perform in 2003 before I had become a student one of her students-- indeed a similar story of Krishna by another dancer had been my introduction to the storytelling and mimetic aspects of Indian classical dance.) The concert ended with a complex call and response, in which Gretchenji and Jerry Leake exchanged bols (the verbal notation of rhythmic motifs) whereupon Gretchenji translated these bols into the percussive footwork for which kathak is known and the musicians each responded with improvisations based on these phrases.

The next day, perhaps energized by the concert the night before, Gretchenji presented a more challenging than usual Sunday class. Particularly memorable were the 32 spins or chakkars we had to execute just as we were coming out of a ta thei tata thei a thei tata thei motif. I must be improving as I managed to get somewhere past my 24th chakkar before losing count and finding the momentum had was actually making it difficult stop. Once we did I was far less dizzy than expected. I resolved that I had more bols to recite and memorize before the next class. This week my project has been dha tere kita taka tuna kat dha tere kita taka tuna kat.

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