Guest soloist inspires with Kathak dance

Anindita Neogy Anaam performs in Esch studio for gathered Lawrentians.
Photo by Larissa Davis.

Last Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Esch Hurvis Studio in the Warch Campus Center, Lawrence welcomed for the yearly dance series the first guest, Anindita Neogy Anaam. Anaam is a leader in the classical Indian dance form of “Kathak” and came to share her art along with her experiences with the Appleton community. Currently the artistic director at the Sargam School of Music and Dance in Delhi, India, Anaam is now based in Wisconsin. She was recently chosen to serve on the Wisconsin Dance Council Board, becoming the first representative of Indian dance on the board. Anaam has previously performed at major dance festivals all over the world and has been the recipient of many awards for her work.

Before the performance had even begun, there was a distant jingle of chimes outside of the room. This sound came from the metallic bells on Anaam’s ghunghru, a musical anklet tied to the feet of classical Indian dancers, which are crucial to the Kathak dance. Anaam has had her leather bound ghunghrus since she was 16. Each one has 150 bells, which adds up to just about five pounds per leg. Because of the emphasis this dance places on rhythm, the ghunghrus on the dancer’s ankles are used as part of the beat in the music. While the instrumentalists are playing, the dancers are also contributing by jangling bells and stomping their feet. As Anaam said, “Dance is rhythm,” and the Kathak dance is giving body to this rhythm. In fact, rhythm is so important to this dance, that before the dancers are even allowed on stage,  they have to study and play the instruments to truly understand what the dance is doing on that level. Anaam worked with drums, lyrics and just about everything else used in this art form so she could be worthy of performing in front of audiences.

The Kathak dance has been performed for centuries to communicate stories amongst the people of India. This is possible because of its incredibly intricate body movements. In just the two dances Anaam performed, her precision was able to convey a story that no one in the audience was familiar with. The clarity of her exact hand movements helped to create this storytelling experience. Each movement seemed to focus a lot of attention on ending hand gestures, with every finger being in the perfect place before she went on to the rest of the dance. All of this was done with ease and grace, leaving the audience in awe of this unique dance form. Her swift footwork also contributed to the amazement of her work. There were times her feet were moving so fast and hitting the floor in such a way that they could barely be seen clearly.

Anaam was avid about the boundaries that Kathak is constantly pushing in the dance world. This form is always evolving and often encourages improvisation on the dancer’s part. The spunk that Anaam brought to the room was inspiring, and hopefully that energy continues on to the next performance in the series. Set Go will be performing on Friday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Esch Studio next term and is open for the whole student body to attend.