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A soul-stirring Sufi journey
CHENNAI, December 4: Devaniya School of Kathak presented a soul-stirring show “Sufiana Andaz” at Narada Gana Sabha here on November 20, 2014.The 90-minute show, featuring 110 students from the dance school, presented the Sufi journey of love, passion and compassion through a bouquet of eight dance sequences.

The chief guest Shri Ashish Khokar and guests of honour Smt. Meenakshi Chitharanjan and Dr. Amit Saiya formally inaugurated the show with the lighting of a lamp. In his message, eminent dance historian, Mr. Ashish Khokkar, pointed out that the word art resided with the word heart. And, he stressed on the importance for every student to `` learn from the heart”.

Noted danseuse, Smt. Meenakshi Chitharanjan, said that in a city of Bharatanatyam, it was refreshing to hear the “Na –dhin –Dhin –Na” of Kathak – more so considering that the talented Guru Jigyasa was home grown right here in Chennai . Felicitating Jigyasa Giri and her disciples, she said that it was heartening to see so many pursuing this dance form with dedication.

Dr. Amit Saiya, physician and life coach, in his address peppered with humorous quips and couplets, said that in his association with Devaniya over the years he had come to observe that for the guru and the students it was not just about learning a dance form but a way of life - the art positively influencing and shaping every student’s life.

The inauguration was followed by a short presentation by renowned Tablaist Y.Satyanarayana and Sitar by Ustad Shamsad Ali, resident-musicians of Devaniya. And that set the rhythm and pace for the evening.

Sufism, a form of bhakti
Unfolding the show to a 1,000-plus eager audience of parents, well-wishers and art lovers, Smt. Jigyasa Giri , founder of Devaniya , said “ Sufism is a form of bhakti which transcends all conventions, based on mutual expectations, with the basic premise : "I am for you, you are for whoever you choose; I accept whatever you want without any expectations whatsoever”. This thought inspired the conceptualisation of Sufiana Andaz – as a message to all, and, most importantly, to the students who were performing.

Evolution of Sufi journey
The show uncovered the 3 stages of evolution in the Sufi journey to moksha. The opening song was Khwaja Mere Khwaja by Moinuddin Chishti, where all the 112 dancers were on stage beautifully choreographed to present the rising sun in a moving prayer to the Almighty. The first segment of the show was TARANG – where the dancers give back of what they have received so far as gift of knowledge from their Guru and God. Four groups of students, each group at a different level of its learning, presented the gradual process of evolution - where neither age, nor religion, nor intelligence, nor beauty matter, and where only the pure joy of learning exists.

The little ones - Raas & Dhwani, were followed by Laya and Sargam, the adults, all just about 8 months old at Devaniya. They were followed by groups Raag and Taal (little over a year-and-a-half-old), and finally by groups Kavith and Tribhang (completed a year at Devaniya).

Maiden stage show
For most of these dancers, this was their first-ever stage performance, and definitely the first kathak performance for all of them. The unique ensemble was like a splash of colours on a brand new canvas – they ushered in innocence and energy - displaying deft footwork and nritta. The next piece was presented effortlessly by the little moppets of the Swar group, Dumadum Mast Qualandar, a lighter rendition than the original score by Baba Bulleh Shah .They lit the stage afire with their spirited dancing and clapping. The highlight of the choreography was the formation of a boat – symbolically taking the human soul to salvation. Antara, Devaniya’s core team, presented Kuhu kuhu - a poem in English, a story of love and anguish, .a song that teaches one to spread joy and romance even through one’s own tears. The piece was a blend of beautiful abhinaya and powerful nritta. The performance was energetic, rhythmic, and yet, at the same time, very soulful. The Thaat group presented Allah ke bande - a much loved Sufi song by Kailash Kher. Carrying the emotions of hope, courage and undying faith in the supreme will of God, the young dancers passed on their enthusiasm to the audience who were clapping along with them. From a choreographic perspective, this established the fact that popular music could be presented in a classical format, undiluted, with proper training.

Intoxicating effect
The next was a presentation by Lehra, Thumri & Bhav Groups, Arziyaan, from Delhi 6. Sufi twirls are different from the classic Kathak pirouettes. They are more meditational and trance-like, and thus must not be trapped in extreme co-ordination. Else, the essence of the mood might be lost. The dancers did full justice – the Sufi whirls left the audience heads spinning, and the elegant costume and lighting created an intoxicating effect of piety and acceptance by the Lord, as they drenched in the beauty of Sufi spiritual romance.

The penultimate number was traditional Kathak with its mind-boggling footwork and pirouettes. It was a dynamic rhythmic sequence called Tarana by core group, Antara. The choreography traversed the joyous rhythm of life, the balance between joy & sorrow, independence & co-existence – marrying harmony & melody to create a moving landscape of emotions. The dancers enthralled the audience with firm footwork, strong hand movements, and the quintessential “Chakkars”.

Spectacular qawwali
The show ended with a spectacular qawwali – a perfect finale by Aziz Nazan presented as a medley of the original in his unique nasal voice and new age version by KK & Sabri Brothers. The surprise cameo by Jigyasa Giri made the audience yearn for more. She became the narrator taking the audience into the “Circle of Life” through the material world of ego and hurt and the discovery of the path to Almighty. And, she led the audience into the horizon with the students depicting the glorious setting suns, spreading bright hues over horizons, immortalized in memories. This was dedicated as a tribute to her departed Gurus, Guru Shri Krishnakumar and Guru Dr. Maya Rao