India Jazz Suites fuses Kathak, tap


A joyous, thrilling collaboration  between Pandit Chitresh Das — one of the world’s foremost masters of the of the barefoot, bell-bedecked North Indian dance called Kathak — and Emmy award-winning Jason Samuels Smith — one of the world’s fastest tap dancers — comes to Three Stages on May 11.

Accompanied by three top Indian classical musicians and three jazz musicians, India Jazz Suites is a dynamic conversation that uses rhythm and improvisation to communicate a deep appreciation of both traditions, as well as the pure joy of dance. 

Pandit Chitresh Das and Jason Samuels Smith first got to know each other backstage at the 2004 American Dance Festival. Though each comes from a different cultural and artistic background, they share striking similarities: both were child prodigies who began dancing and performing at a very young age; they have a similar approach to dance and a common passion for deep exploration into the possibilities of rhythmic improvisation; and finally, both artists believe passionately that the arts can bring communities together to raise awareness and create greater understanding. 

The dances
Kathak of Northern India may be the only dance form in the world that links Hindu and Muslim cultures. What began as art form celebrating the great stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata moved into the Hindu temples and later became the court dance of the Moghul rulers in North India. These Muslim Moghuls were less interested in the Hindu storytelling of Kathak but appreciated the technical and rhythmic aspects of the dance: a highly refined rhythmic structure and the subtle movements of the dancers’ neck, head, wrists and eyebrows.

The ghungroo, or ankle bells, weighing 3 to 4 pounds, are the dancer’s instrument, an expression of the body’s voice. The rapid footwork, deft spins and storytelling, accompanied by the North Indian classical drums, the tabla, and stringed instruments, all come together to create the dance, theater and musical expression that is Kathak.

Tap is an original American art form, based on African dance and rhythms and inspired by many other styles, such as the Juba Dance, English Lancashire Clog dancing and Irish step dancing. From the early minstrel shows to Vaudeville, through a mixing with the Lindy Hop in the ‘30s, the art form has found its contemporary voice in the work of Savion Glover and Jason Samuels Smith and even in animated films like “Happy Feet.”

The performers
A child prodigy, Pandit Chitresh Das has become one of the most dynamic and far-reaching artists to emerge from modern India. A prolific artist, his traditional performances, choreography and evolution of Kathak, the classical dance of North India, have influenced the art form world-wide.

“A performer who has opened new avenues for his form, it is easy to see why Das has been acknowledged as a phenomenon” (Hindustan Times, India).

In 2009 Pandit Das was chosen as a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2011 Pandit Das received an award from the prestigious Sarba Bharatiya Sangit Parishad in Kolkata, India.

Jason Samuels Smith has received a Dance Magazine Award as well as an Emmy and American Choreography Award for “Outstanding Choreography.” Performances include Mya on CBS’s Secret Talents of the Stars, twice as a special guest (soloist & company appearance) on Fox’s hit series “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with The Stars” to name a few. Other television and film credits include co-starring in Dean Hargrove’s award-winning short film “Tap Heat”; Outkast’s feature film “Idlewild”; and Debbie Allen’s AMC series “Cool Women.” Other performances include “Sammy” (tribute to Sammy Davis jr.); “Soul Possessed” (leading role); Tony Award winning Broadway show “Bring in Da’Noise, Bring in Da’Funk” (principal and lead roles); and “Imagine Tap!” (leading role). 

North Indian classical musicians
Considered among the top class of tabla players from India, Abhijit Banerjee (tabla) is joined by Debashish Sarkar (vocal & harmonium) and Jayanta Banerjee (sitar).

Jazz musicians
Theo Hill (piano) and Ryan Berg (bASS) join Andrew Atkinson (kit drum), who has worked with Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval, Danilio Perez and Donald Harrison.

India Jazz Suites comes to Three Stages on Friday, May 11, at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $21-$34 with premium tickets available for $39; they are available online at threestages.net or from Three Stages ticket office at (916) 608-6888 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Three Stages is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, facing East Bidwell Street.

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Posted by on Apr 25 2012.
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