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Beyond Mudras

12-09-2023  Gday India

Kathak, deriving its name from the Sanskrit words ‘katha’ (story) and ‘kathakar’ (storyteller), is one of the eight acknowledged Indian classical dance forms. Originating in the Indo-Gangetic belt, its earliest reference is from the 4th century BC preceding the writing of the Bharata’s Natyashastra, the revered Indian Treatise on dramaturgy.
One such artist in Melbourne, Sanchita Abrol, took the initiative to re-produce this century-old authentica storytelling on the 26th of August 2023 at the 'Melbourne Kathak Festival’ - generational storytelling.4-3
Sanchita wanted the second and third-generation migrants to connect with the ancient stories and understand the context of mudras and how it all came to form.
The blending of classical music and the joy of celebrating Indian ethos and diverse cultures within the emotive depth, represented by the different colours changing with the costume, the music, and the texture of the melody. 
Sanchita explains how dance is vast; ancient scriptures translated all of the above to form a language of dance, and how it changed along with the region of development. So, she wanted to represent the broader perspective and produce a wholesome festival different from the annual cultural festivals.6-1
Sanchita solely dedicates all her talent to her Guru, the legendary Padmashri Guru Shovana Narayan, the Kathak queen of India. The stage has been alluring Sanchita since the age of five, and she has performed and represented India internationally in SAARC, at the Commonwealth Games, China, UK, Europe and at Melbourne's Indian Film Festival.
Running a dance school, The Kathaprana Dance Academy, Sanchita explains that she only takes a few students, especially when she wants to maintain quality, not quantity, and her hands are full, especially with her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
In this year’s festival Kathaprana Dance Academy's repertory group performed a Tarana, celebrating the multiculturalism within India. One by one, diverse artists immersed the audience in complex rhythms, melodies and the joy of dancing through graceful movements, intense footwork, fast pirouettes, and heart-touching 'bhava' or storytelling. The accompanying artists were Sanchita Abrol, Jitender Singh Jamwal, Vinod Prasanna, David Balaban and Pranav Ramji.7
“Every year, we also have an emerging solo artist presenting.’’ says Sanchita. This year was a bansuri recital by 11-year-old Shreya, a student of Vinod Prasanna.
Ghazal performance by a senior guest artist from India, Jitender Singh Jamwal.  
Here at the festival in Melbourne, accompanied by Vinod Prasanna on flute and Pranav Ramji on Tabla created a magical moment of sound.
The festival also did a special tribute to ISRO's landing of the Chandrayan 3 with a jugalbandi, reiterating the slogan "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan and Jai Anusandhan. This piece was conceptualised by Sanchita Abrol, vocals by Jitender Singh Jamwal, and accompanied by Vinod Prasanna on Flute and Pranav Ramji on Tabla.
This year, the festival also celebrated and presented some of the compositions in the Dogri Language by Late Sahitya Akademi Awardee Kunwar Viyogi. 
Dogri is the official language of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Compositions like 'Aayi Khushboo' and 'Kangrel' took the audience on a journey of love and passion in the Himalayas.
Before the festival, Sanchita explains that they also organised the Artist Lab – Hindustani Classical Vocals Workshop. Well received by the participants as they learned various techniques towards Ghazal gayaki.
The theatre was packed with enthusiastic patrons from both sides of classical dance and non-classical backgrounds. Opening remarks by the Honourable Jason Wood, Shadow Minister for Community, Safety, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs and Keith Wolahan MP, a few remarks by Consul General of India Dr. Sushil Kumar, and a thoughtful and empowering closing note by John Mullahy MP on behalf of the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, the Hon. Colin Brooks MP ended the show on a good note.
MC Nidhi Bommakanty did a brilliant job of keeping the crowd together. It was not once, but many times during the performances the audience would break into applause with the sheer talent of the students and Sanchita's elegant performance.
Apart from organising a festival and running a school, Sanchita is a public policy consultant and a qualified Dance Movement Therapist. Currently, she's also doing her master’s degree in dance Movement Therapy at the University of Melbourne. 
Her father, a doctor and a paediatric oncologist in India, and her mother, a teacher, were raised with the value of giving back to the community. Sanchita, too, wanted to pay it back to the people in the aged care, school setting, and even around the mental health space, where she can transform life with dance movement therapy.
Sanchita started the 'South Asian Centre for Creative Arts Therapies.' The centre aims to raise awareness about mental health and how culturally appropriate creative arts therapy can be helpful within the South Asian and broader CALD community in Australia. 
The centre also understands how essential community arts can be. Therefore, the centre aims to create more inclusive creative arts spaces for the CALD community, where elderlies, differently abled people and mental health survivors can create arts for purpose. 
It is unique to see such diverse talent thriving across Melbourne, and we would want to see causes beyond dancing, giving storytelling a purpose and a new shape to blend into the flow of creativity. 
At G'day India, we wish all the very best to Sanchita, her bhava, abhinaya, and her dance academy. May she (they) rise above and beyond with more causes benefitting humanity with her art and beyond mudras.

By Nandita Chakraborty 

12-09-2023  Gday India