Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sarod and Kathak Concert, December 15

My kathak teacher Gretchen Hayden and her husband, sarodist, George Ruckert, will be performing a concert this Saturday, December 15th at 7:30pm at MIT's Kresge Auditorium. They will be joined by Pandit Ramesh Misra on sarangi and Aditya Kalyanpur on tabla.

Judging from the last Saturday night concert she gave I expect that come Sunday morning, Gretchenji will push us to our very limits during class.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Twelve in Boston Phoenix

This week's Boston Phoenix ran a feature story on the film Twelve. Twelve is an anthology film made up of a dozen short pieces, one for every month of the year, each by a different filmmaker.

I had a small role in the September segment directed by Joan Meister. We shot in Copley Square in the Back Bay of Boston-- perhaps my favorite site of architectural contrast in Boston: The neo-classicism of the Boston Public Library, Richardson Romanesque of Trinity Church, and the high modernism of the John Hancock building all facing one another -- the entire cast had to recite the same line of poetry to the camera in close-up, and mill about the plaza.

During the downtime in between my shots, I was often revising my play script by hand, which, taken literally, means my writing may have appeared on film-- though certainly not in a manner that would make me eligible for WGA membership.

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.