Annual Day at Bharatiya Sangeet and Nartan Shikshapeeth (or Avani Shah’s Kathak Performance)

Avani’s Kathak Performance
Avani, on the left, performing with other students of Kathak

My performanc wld b at around 7ish At bhartiya vidya bhavan.But its really ok if u cant mak it.i assure u, ul miss nothin 😉

In the short-hand and random capitalization and spacing ubiquitous to young adults of her generation (and anathema to people of mine), Avani SMSes me her disclaimer. “I want to come.” I text back “Where is it near?” (I include the proper punctuation in all my messages.)

I reach the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Chowpatty around 6:44pm and enter the dark and air conditioned hall. The stage curtains are drawn and a bunch of kids are running out from the stage area. “Oh good”, I think to myself – “I’ve missed the little kids. ”

Saraswati, Hindu goddess of Art, Music & Knowledge, graces the stage

There is an announcement in Hindi, and in a few minutes, the curtains open and the stage is set for musical performances, not dance. A sitar player and tabla player are seated on the raised platform. Clearly, the sitar player is the student here. His performance is short. Then a tabla player and harmonium player. The tabla student is pretty bad. Though, again, the performance is mercifully short. Then a vocalist, accompanied by tabla, harmonium, and tanpura.

In the middle of the performance, Avani rushes in to the auditorium – you can recognize her by her backpack with the 2 large carabiners hanging off the handle – at 7:45pm! She sees me and runs over to where I’m sitting. She gives me her camera and asks if I can take video. “You just have to press a button right?” I ask. “Yes.” And she sets the camera to video, shows me how to turn it on and off, how to zoom in and out, and how to press that button. “Do you go on after this?” I ask, expectantly. “No, after this there is a prize distribution, then a break, then the Bharat Natyam dancers, then us.” She gives me a look, then says: “If it gets too late and you have to go, just give the camera to the auntie in the blue and tell her it’s Avani’s camera. But if you’re here, nothing like it!” And she rushes off while I dig further into my chair for the long haul.

After the vocalist, the principal of the Shikshapeeth comes on stage to give a little speech and hand out the awards and prizes. From her, we learn that the Institute was founded in 1946, and that they just celebrated their “Diamond Jubilee Year” (60th anniversary) . The Institute started out teaching sitar, tabla and vocal, but to keep up with the times, they’ve added “hobby” classes of Sugam Sangeet, harmonium, and Hawaiian guitar due to popular demand. (Hawaiian guitar?!? For some reason, this cracks me up.) Bharat Natyam dance was introduced in 1948 and Kathak in 1957. The classical music and dance programs are 5-year diploma programs, after which students can go on with one-on-one study with a guru.

Flowers Worn in Avani’s Hair
The flowers worn in Avani’s hair

The first award – first place for a first year vocal student – goes to a Japanese woman. First and second places are announced for winners in each year of study for each of the instruments, then the dancers. Surprise! Avani is awarded second place in first year Kathak. Not surprised that Avani won an award – she has medals for every year of every sport she has undertaken – just surprised that she didn’t tell me. I am one of three people that clap for her. (Her mom is in the U.S., her brother left for Dubai yesterday, and her father is at the funeral ceremony of a friend’s wife, so it’s up to me and two other aunties.)

When Avani finally comes on stage, she has the most serious look on her face – one of intense concentration. She starts out in the back, with the other first year. I’m too busy taking still photographs and video to take in much. She rotates to the front with two other girls. Ooops! She makes a mistake – starts a movement too soon. Do I have that on video? No matter. She rotates off the stage shortly thereafter, leaving a stage littered with loose bells flung off ankles and flowers thrown off heads.


2 Responses to “Annual Day at Bharatiya Sangeet and Nartan Shikshapeeth (or Avani Shah’s Kathak Performance)”

  1. 1 viral September 6, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    hey i know her! 🙂

  2. 2 yoomilee September 7, 2007 at 2:11 am

    Yup, that’s her! Has her mom seen this?

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