Ms. Manjari Chaturvedi is a pioneer of her dance Sufi Kathak. She is a leading exponent of the Indian classical dance and is acclaimed for being the creator and only performing artist of Sufi Kathak. She has combined the mysticism of Sufi traditions with classical Indian dance to create a stunning new dance form called Sufi Kathak.
A force and a name to reckon with, she has blazed her own path with her work in last fifteen years on the Sufi thought. With the establishment of the Sufi Kathak Foundation she has taken a leap further to support marginal artists and provide research opportunities to scholars and students under the banner of the Foundation.
LEVEKUNST art of life has the pleasure of sharing this interview with Manjari Chaturvedi:
Please describe the spiritual qualities of your own dance teachers.
Learning the language of dance is like any other language. One needs to know how to draw the abc to be able to form words and sentences and then express. Dance is also similar, one needs to know the abc of the language of the body to be able to express.
However, in the end it is not just important how beautifully you can draw an “a” or “b”; the importance is what you would write as a sentence and a story that you would communicate to the audiences as a dancer using the language of the body. My teachers had their own unique qualities as anyone following art develops their inherent sensitivities.
How do you define the dancer’s experience and its relationship to a timeless spiritual essence?
I see my dance as a prayer. When we use only our tongue to speak the Almighty’s name it is called a prayer with words, but when we use this complete body given to us to speak about the Almighty, for me that becomes a prayer too, a dance, Sufi Kathak.
Dance is in itself a meditation. You lose yourself and at the same time become completely aware of each and every part of the body. You start realizing that there is energy beyond the body and gradually you start using the cosmic energy for dance. It is a whole process of awareness. After the initial coordination of mind, hands and feet you start enjoying the process.
The recurring theme in my dance performances is the complete devotion and the ecstatic love for the Almighty: “I dance in surrender to him, to his glory, to his love and to his world, there is an underlying lilting melody and strong rhythm in my dance, which depicts separation and union, the fire of the eternal dance of a moth.”
We are very interested in bridge-building, to unify rather than divide. Could you describe some of your sources of inspiration?
I have Indian students belonging to all religions who come and learn Sufi Kathak. Apart from that I have a batch of students that are from Japan. Also there are students from various other countries like Libya, France and Canada.
Language is not a barrier as the Sufi thought can be expressed in any language and hence I give the freedom to my students to choose their language and relate to their audience, as long as the message remains intact.
As such, Sufi Kathak gives the freedom to use any of these languages as the medium of expression. The relevance of the language that Sufi Kathak uses is thus in servitude of conveying a message to which the world at large may commune in. Sufi Kathak is receptive to each student’s cultural and lingual sensitivity, and encourages students to use the language they are most comfortable in to convey the message of the Sufi saints through Sufi Kathak.
The complete abandon and the surrender in the Sufi poetry written by the great Sufi poets drew me immensely towards Sufi music. The simplicity of writing in the spoken language and the layering of love for the Almighty giving instances from our day to day life. This is something that I found incredible.
When do you find that your art has been successful, really worthwhile?
Every time I dance.
In the past decade Manjari Chaturvedi has collaborated and performed with a wide range of international artists as global fusion with Tim Ries (Saxophone, Rolling Stones, Usa) And Ustad Shujaat Hussain Khan (Sitar, India), Taufiq Quereshi (India), Kevin Hays (Piano, USA), Dhaffer Yoseuf (Oudh, Vocals, Tunisia), Rahim Al Hajj ( Oudh, Iraq), Patrick Possey (Saxophone, USA), Firas Shahrstan (Qanun, Syria), Micheal Glenn (Bass, USA).
LEVEKUNST further learned that Ms. Manjari Chaturvedi has performed Sufi Kathak in more than 250 concerts all over the world in more than twenty countries, setting a historical step in the field of performing arts through the creation of a completely new artform. In the last decade, Manjari has performed in concerts all over the world including Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and Central Asia along with Australia and America. She has been the part of the Sufi Symposium at the prestigious Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C. and of the conference on Living Heritage by UNESCO and is on the Jury and member of “Think Tank on Asian Dance” for the prestigious Asian Dance Committee in Korea. For more details visit her website.
In her words: Sufi Kathak transcends all religions to become a link bridging God and the devotees. It is synonymous with serenity, piety, mental peace and divine power, which is a symbol of truth. It is attracting the new generation at the international level, breaking barriers as an example of unity in diversity.
Photo by Amrit Mehra.
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