Kathak Ensemble & Friends
The Kathak Ensemble & Friends' Mission is "to engage in a dialogue with familiar American arts forms, demystifying unique details of pan-Indian culture and engaging audience members in a journey of the imagination, revealing exotic other-ness as a variation on the common theme of human-ness."
Founded in 1978, the Kathak Ensemble has presented over 30 full-evening productions for both group and solo formats, as well as many shorter works. Showcasing both classical Lucknow-gharana Kathak and original choreography, the Ensemble's works have been inspired by texts as diverse as the Rig Vedic Hymn of Creation, X.129 and modern poet W.H. Auden's love song Lullaby. The Ensemble has unraveled pan-Indian poetry for its American audiences, interweaving English translations with verses in their original Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Braj languages, accompanied by music commissioned from a broad spectrum of Indian, American and Sri Lankan composers. Exploring similar structures in Hindustani and western music, the Ensemble has choreographed movement-music conversations between Kathak and its accompanying Hindustani music, aincluding jazz scatting and Kathak bol parhant. Contemporary music by John Adams and David Lang has accompanied extensions of the Kathak movement vocabulary.
Rather than giving lecture-demonstrations, the Ensemble creates performance structures which reveal Indian dramatic and pictorial conventions. For example its PREMIKA framed the ashta nayika (eight heroines, eight moods of love) convention with the outspoken musings by a modern Indian woman about her love life. Each contemporary comment was followed by a similar situation in a classical Kathak dance. The Ensemble's most recent production WE SINFUL WOMEN dramatizes Pakistani Urdu feminist poetry as the life of the universal woman, filled with ecstatic joy and searing protest.
The Kathak Ensemble has performed at major venues including Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum, Symphony Space NYC, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors Festival, the Smithsonian Museum, DANSPACE Project, the American Museum of Natural History, the Bindadin Maharaj stage in Lucknow, the Indian Cultural Center in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Shri Ram Center and Kamani Auditorium in New Delhi.
Ensemble Founder and Artistic Director, Janaki Patrik received her Kathak training from Pt. Birju Maharaj in India starting in 1967. Awarded a Studio Scholarship at the Merce Cunningham Studio between 1971 and 1978, she studied Cunningham technique and repertoire, also attending choreography workshops taught by Merce Cunningham and his leading dancer Carolyn Brown. Janaki received a BA, Phi Beta Kappa,1966 from Swarthmore College in Russian Language and Literature, and an MA, 2000 from Columbia University's Department of Middle East and Asian Languages. She was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 1988-89, and an American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Performing Artist grantee in 2008-09.