ISLAMABAD – A solo Kathak dance recital by French dancer and choreographer, Isabelle Anna, captivated the audience as she received a standing ovation and rounds of applause on her performance.

The magical evening of Kathak dance was organised by Alliance Francaise Islamabad at Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) the other day. Earlier Anna was of the view that performing here in Pakistan would be a bit challenging for her and people might not understand what she wanted to express; however, the response of the audience showed that they understood it well. “The response was above my expectations. The way they were responding, and supporting me during the performance showed that they were feeling something; there was an exchange of feelings,” Anna said.

Kathak students, embassy officials and people from other walks of life attended the function.

Wearing conventional Kathak attire and ghunghroo tied around her ankles, she presented seven pieces. Her recitals include both the traditional aspects of the ‘Lucknow Gharana’ and her experimental work based on Kathak.

She started off her performance with “Shahi Mehfil” choreographed by Pandit Jaikishan Mahraj. The performance was set on Teen Taal. She also danced to a Ghazal, titled “Bade Nada” that was composed by Pandit Arjun Mishra. The essence of the romantic Ghazal portrayed the spirit of lovers who can be killed, but their love cannot be faded away.

In the second session Anna presented her experimental works based on Kathak blended with western music. With the tune of “My Bolero”, music by Maurice Ravel (version of two pianos by Labeque Sisters) Isabelle presented an outstanding performance.

The Bolero of Ravel has inspired many choreographers but no one has researched the origin of this dance as Isabelle Anna, right from the syllable BOL, the essence of rhythm and the source of movement, focusing on the roots of South Asia. Bolero has been nurtured by numerous cultural essences. Thus, this cultural diversity rooted within the Bolero provides the opportunity to Isabelle in order to research the origins of Kathak. Therefore, Bolero serves as an experimenting ground for Isabelle.

One performance ‘Miniatures and Zarb’ was based on Italian Renaissance music. Followed by a complex study of rhythm executed on the Persian tambour Zarb as well as the traditional Dervish movements.

Another piece was “K’asturias” music by Tango by Isaac Albeniz, amongst the most important pieces of classical guitar. The piece was a mix of Kathak and Spanish sonorities inspired by the historical links of Kathak with Spain and Andalusia.

Other performances included “Tarana”, choreography by Pandit Arjun Mishra and “O Vos Omnes”, music by Tomas Luis de Victoria.

Kathak being a traditional form of art cannot be blended with other dances but Anna experimented Kathak with other form of dances that have similarities with Kathak like Dervish and Flamenco, a southern Spanish dance style. “And this blend has been taken and appreciated well by the audiences everywhere,” she said.