On the 8th February, 2013, I had the good fortune of watching a programme called ‘Fastest Feet in Rhythm’ organized jointly by Odissa Tourism and U S Consulate General, Hyderabad. It was a unique and amazing Jugalbandi by Kathak maestro Pandit Chitrsh Das (creator of Kathak Yoga) and the Emmy Award winner American Tap dancer and choreographer Jason Samuels Smith. It was a fusion of the classical Indian Kathak dance and Western tap dance. They performed against the backdrop of the famous Rajarani Temple at Bhubaneswar. The receding winter, neither cold nor warm, provided a perfect atmosphere for this open-air presentation.
The first part of the programme was an innovative Kathak dance by Chitresh Das. After presenting Shiva Vandana in the classical style, he moved to his innovation. By skilled footwork he created the sounds of a galloping horse and then a running train and the crossing of two trains. In the second part, Jason started with the usual tap dance, moved over to dancing to the playing of Indian musical instruments and then to the ‘tapping’ effect with swift footwork.
In the third part, the duo danced with perfect synthesis. There was a perfect fusion between the Indian classical music and dance with Jazz music and Western dance.
Tap dancers use their feet like drums to create rhythmic patterns and timely beats. The sound is made by shoes with metal ‘tap’ on the heel and toe. The term ‘tap dancing’ is derived from the tapping sound produced when the small metal plates fixed to the dancer’s shoes touch the hard floor. Tap dancing has two major variations: Rhythm (Jazz) Tap and Broadway Tap. Rhythm Tap focuses more on musicality while Broadway Tap emphasizes more on the dance.
It was a very enjoyable evening.
The previous evening, the two performers spoke to a leading national newspaper about their unusual collaboration and the kind of reaction they get from the audience. Chitresh Das, who is 68, said that he felt younger when he performs with Jason. Jason said that their collaboration started at the backstage of the American Dance Festival in 2oo4.
Interestingly, Rajarani temple, probably built by Somavanshi kings, has a mystery about it. There is no deity in it and no puja is performed here. Nobody knows whether there ever was a deity in this temple. Some believe that it was a pleasure resort of Raja (King) and Rani (Queen) and hence the name but other historians show evidences to disprove this theory. Some historians say the original name of the temple was Indreswar Temple but later it came to be known as Rajarani temple as it is built of Rajarania, the fine-grained yellowish sand-stone. Both in art and architecture, it has all the features of a temple-structure. Beautiful statuettes and carvings adorn this temple which as tall as any other such structure. Some historians say it was a Shiva temple while others say its presiding deity was Lord Vishnu.
A beautiful and well-maintained park and a lawn have been laid out around
this temple. The precinct comes to life every year in January when the 3-day Rajarani Festival is organized here. Noted Indian classical vocal and instrumental artistes from all over India perform in this Festival and the temple reverberates with notes and strains of captivating music.
I am a regular visitor of this Festival.