News Column

Indian classic dance legend performs in Japan for 1st time in 26 yrs

May 13, 2014

Singh Supriya

Pandit Birju Maharaj, the king of one of the eight classic dances of India, aims to promote Kathak dance, or an act of storytelling through dance, during his first visit to Japan in 26 years.

In an interview with Kyodo News after performing Sunday in Tokyo, the dancer-composer-choreographer of the ethnic performing art described Kathak as a form of yoga put to music, where the performer also uses gestures and facial expressions to enact stories from Indian mythology.

The 76-year-old dancer invited by one of his students with the aim of introducing the real culture of India to Japanese, said Kathak is "an act of yoga, prayer and meditation...and is also entertaining".

"Everyone seeks happiness and peace in this world," he said, adding, "Music has a big role in providing peace. It distracts you from the outer world for some time and then you are back to the worldly life again." In Kathak, music also serves "to attract the attention of the crowd toward the performers," he said.

The Kathak wizard, who has earned India's second-highest civilian award of Padma Vibhushan, said he strives to communicate with Japanese audiences "through the language of action...using hands and eyes."

Birju Maharaj has sought support to promote the dance form in Japan so that he has more students, as in other countries including the United States.

However, he seemed content with the progress of his current Japanese students, about 100 of whom live in Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya and elsewhere around Japan. "They have gained the understanding of Kathak movements, facial expressions and eye movements," Birju Maharaj said.

The Kathak master is scheduled to give one more dance performance next Sunday in Osaka during his current visit to Japan.

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Source: Japan Economic Newswire