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Dance : <i> Kathak </i> Program at Occidental College

If kathak, the ancient Indian dance form, can tell elaborate stories about the gods, why not adapt it to the contemporary story of a girl torn between obedience to her Indian family and the desire to imitate her American peers?

That was the idea behind Anjani Ambegaokar’s new dance-drama, “Ma Aur Betiyan” (Mothers and Daughters), performed by her small company during an otherwise traditional kathak program at Thorne Hall, Occidental College, on Saturday night.

The piece was marred by stilted verbal exchanges between mother and daughter before each brief black-out scene, and insensitive chopping of the taped music (“Passages,” a collaboration of Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass). Some of the themes were hard to puzzle out from the movements, and some scenes baldly illustrated the ideas but didn’t work as theater.

Yet there were lovely moments reminiscent of traditional Indian themes. Ambegaokar’s joyous romp with her unseen baby and her cross mimic of her daughter bopping to music on earphones recalled incidents from Krishna’s childhood.

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Throughout the program, Ambegaokar’s dancing was dazzling--her warmly regal presence, the darting precision of her arms, the disparate moods that played over her face. In “Shastriya Kathak Nritya,” her rocketing feet handily kept pace with virtuoso tabla player Abdul Sattar Tari’s fusillade of drumming.

The company charmer was Kavita Jain, with her beauty-queen smile, delicate gestures and sharply accented movements. Vocalist Mala Ganguly provided the butter-smooth accompaniment, and Scott Marcus played the sitar.


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