Sufi Sonata

Manjari Chaturvedi dances to lose the self in the Almighty

The theme of the evening was the spiritual journey of a woman from self-absorbed narcissism to a complete surrender to the Almighty. As Manjari Chaturvedi, a dancer from the Lucknow gharana, laid bare her devotion through what she calls Sufi Kathak on Thursday, Kamani Auditorium came alive with a spiritual aura and soulful ecstasy.

"This is an effort to rediscover Kathak from its classical form. I have introduced the mystique of Sufism in Kathak to create a dance form with its own tenets," said Chaturvedi, 35, who has been performing the meditative dance for 12 years. All the dances were set to quwwalis by Rumi, Amir Khusrau and Baba Bulleshah rendered by musicians from Tehran, Lucknow and Delhi.

Dressed in white, as she began with her whirling movements on stage — in a Sufi dervish tradition— (remember Khwaja in Jodhaa Akbar), her body seemed to reach towards formlessness. There was no flamboyance and exhibition. As one dance fused into the next due to the unanimity of the theme, Chaturvedi swayed and twirled, losing herself to the music and spirituality of the song. After a change in outfits from white to red and then to black, the dancer exuded more power. "This loss of individual identity is precisely the point of Sufi Kathak," said Chaturvedi, who learnt Kathak from Pt Arjun Mishra of Lucknow gharana.

Chaturvedi's attires were unusual— flowing kurtas and peshwa pyjamas from Awadhi tradition instead of the normal Kathak dress of angrakha and fitted churidaar. "I don't dance to entertain. I dance in praise of the Almighty so the attention has to be taken away from me," she iterates.

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