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Astha Dixit, a unique exponent of Sufi Kathak

0005Astha Dixit is a Kathak Danseuse who has touched the arts of people all over the world. She uses this age old art form to speak the language of the soul. Through her dance she she expresses poetry, emotion and the relationship of love with the Divine. Her stage presence has a unique quality to pull and carry the audience into her dance and take them on a journey of the heart . Graceful and precise in her movement, she skilfully plays with Bhav (expression) and technique. Having studied in both Gharanas of Kathak, she has received her Kathak training in Delhi from Shri Harish Gangani of the Jaipur Gharana and from Smt. Malti Shyam of the Lucknow Gharana. She has had the privilege of receiving some finer nuances of the dance form in workshops of Pt. Birju Marahaj.

Astha Dixit, Kathak Dancer, Choreographer, Teacher has risen as a new young voice in Kathak presenting some unique work in the Kathak field in the last few years. She has brought out the versatility of Kathak dance as a unique call for the Divine through her sensitively choreographed presentations on Sufism. Her stage presence has a unique quality to pull the audience into her dance and take them on a journey of the heart. Through her various projects in Kathak she has sought to share with her audiences a unique relationship with the Divine through expression of poetry, emotion, and love.

Through her various projects she has sought to share with her audiences a unique relationship with the Divine. she has interpreted kalam (poetries) of Sufi mystics – Amir Khusrau, Bulleh Shah, Kwaja Gulam Farid, Zaheen, Nazir Akhbarabadi, Sultan Bahu, Turab Ali Shah. She danced for the Jahan-e-Khusrau Sufi Music Festival in New Delhi, Lucknow, and Jaipur. She has choreographed a number of projects set to classical compositions, ghazal, qawalli where she has brought out the versatility of Kathak dance as a pathway to the Divine. She has brought Kathak dancers and Sufi whirling dervish together on the stage together to create a unique experience of surrender through art.”

0002She served as a dancer with the Repertory of the Kathak Kendra National Institute of Kathak Dance under Sangeet Natak Academi for two years. She has worked with the topmost Guru’s of Kathak including Smt. Kumudini Lakhia, Smt. Gitanjali Lal, Pt. Rajendra Gangani and Smt. Malti Shyam in their choreographic works for major national and international dance festivals such as Khajuraho Dance Festival, Konark Festival, Kathak Mahotsav, Festival of India, China, India Show, Czechoslovakia. She has done Lecture Demonstration tours with Spic Macay and IRCEN in different school across India. Her solo performances spread across numerous festivals in India, China, UK, Germany, and US. She has done groundbreaking work in Kathak on the Sufi poetries of great mystics. She has worked with a poet/artist interpreting Buddhist haikus and live brushstrokes in Kathak. Astha has been an actress in South Indian Cinema where she played lead role in a mythological based film and a secondary role as a young dance teacher (2006-2007). She has been featured in the music video, Aaja Re Aaja, for singer Nipun Amayruss.Raised originally in Los Angeles, Californa, Astha co-founded her own dance company that toured throughout the US. Her company presented aesthetic blends of traditional Indian dance adapted to modern audiences. As they became an icon for unique India inspired performances in the Hollywood Industry, Astha and her dance company performed in an International Pepsi Commercial with world
famous pop singer, Christina Aguilera in 2005.

Astha has presented her creative performances at the Jahan-e-Khusrau World Sufi Music Festival 2013 in New Delhi, Humayun Tombs, Lucknow, Dilkusha Palace, and Jaipur, Central Park bringing forth Sufi bhav at its best and group choreographies set to ghazal, qawalli, thumri. She has interpreted kalam (poetries) of legendary Sufi mystics – Amir Khusrau, Bulleh Shah, Kwaja Gulam Farid, Zaheen, Nazir Akhbarabadi, Sultan Bahu, Turab Ali Shah.

0003She brought Kathak dancers and Sufi whirling dervish first time together on the stage in a piece set to a 12 beat cycle, kathak todas, and spoken poetry that created a unique experience of surrender through art. For the Conversation of Culture of Lucknow, she choreographed an Urdu poetry based musical ballet on the Spirit of Lucknow shown through a characterisation of the River Gomti  through 11 kathak dancers for the Wajid Ali Shah festival directed by Muzaffar Ali. Astha Dixit choreographed colorful darbari kathak dance sequences along with performing as lead dancer in the Badshah Rangeela theatre production by Living Room Theatre and she also choreographed a diverse set of dance pieces for the Dara Shikoh theatre production by Impressario Asia directed by MS Sathyu.

Having studied in both Gharanas of Kathak, she has received her Kathak training in Delhi first from Shri Harish Gangani of the Jaipur Gharana and later from Smt. Malti Shyam of the Lucknow Gharana. She has had the privilege of receiving some training in workshops from Doyen of Kathak Pt. Birju Marahaj. Her solo performances spread across festivals in India, US, UK, and Germany.

Previously she worked as a repertory member of the Kathak Kendra National Institute of Kathak Dance Repertory under Ministry of Culture and performed at festivals like Shanghai World Expo, China, Konark Festival, Bhuvaneshwar, Kathak Mahotsav, New Delhi. She currently still works in choreographic productions of Guru Smt. Malti Shyam with whom she has performed at the Festival of India, Czech Republic, Khajuraho Dance festival, Buddhist  Inauguration Festival, Nepal.

Perfomances

  • Jahan-e-Khusrau World Sufi Music Festival, Humayun Tomb,Delhi.
  • Jahan-e-Khusrau World Sufi Music Festival, Dilkusha Palace,Lucknow.
  • Lead actress/dancer in Musical Play Badshah Rangeela,Delhi/NCR.
  • Shanghai World Expo Festival of India,China.
  • World Culture Festival,Berlin, GermanySee Video
  • Buddhist Inaugaration Festival,Nepal.
  • Khajuraho Dance Festival,Khajuraho.
  • Konark Festival,Bhuvaneshwar.
  • Kathak Mahotsav,New Delhi.
  • Rabindra Pranati by Sangeet Natak Academi,Meghdoot, New Delhi.
  • Sancarana, India International Centre,New Delhi.
  • Kathak Dance Festival,Baroda.
  • raj Kala Kendra Holi Festival,New Delhi.
  • Samarpan, India Habitat Centre,New Delhi.
  • Festival In Memory of Pt. Kundanlal Gangani,New Delhi.
  • International Conference of Spirituality,Rishikesh.
  • World Dance Day by Sadhya, India Habitat Centre,New Delhi.
  • Emmies Awards Reception,USA.
  • NBC Tourism Festival,USA.
  • Sufi Festival,Museum of Contemporary Art, USA.
  • Ahimsa Festival,Salvador Dali Museum, USA.
  • Ahimsa Festival,Global Metreon, USA.
  • Summer Sessions Festival,John Paul Getty Center, USA.
  • One Night for India,Wiltern Theatre, USA.

Productions

1. Jahan-e-Khusrau 2013
For the legendary Sufi Music festival held every year at the haunting Humayun’s Tomb Monuments in Delhi and the Dilkusha Palace in Lucknow, Astha came together with film-maker, painter, conceiver of this festival to give form to some of his visions to share Sufi poetries with the world. Upon his desire to share the genius of Sufi poet, Nazir Akhbarabadi at this year’s festival, Astha created dance compositions in group and solo to interpret Nazir’s voice through dance. She interpretted his ever paradoxical and deeply thought provoking qalam, Khoonrez Karishma Nazo Sitam, with her Abhinaya. She colored the stage with her dance in Nazir’s Holi, Jab Phagun Rang Jhamakte Hon. Her and her team of dancers challenged the audiences with a energetic composition to a qawalli-like composition, Yeh Bhad Fakiri Hai Baba.

2. Badshah Rangeela (2013)
A mega theatre production with music, dance, and poetry. Written and Directed by Sarita Vohra. This musical play captures the magic of the Mughal period, where the music, dance, and poetry thrived under the rule of the emperor Mohammad Shah Rangeela. A pulsating story where the peacock throne is eventually lost to the invade of Nadir Shah, celebrating a rule where the development of arts was given more importance than miltary and political responsibilities Astha choreographed all the court dances in this production. Along with choreography, she plays the role of the charming and daring emperor’s favorite, Noor. Starting with a Kafi which leaves the king  spellbound, she enters playfully with her other court dancers in a Malhar piece celebratory of the rainy season. The court mehfils continue non-stop, with beautiful dance sequences to tarana, ghazal, sufi, and malkauns compositions. Music by Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan from Pakistan and Vidya Shah.

3. Wings of the Heart (2011-12) – Sufi Andaaz
In a heart-enthralling Kathak presentation, Astha invites you into an intimacy with the Divine where she presents groundbreaking Kathak dance to Sufi Qalam of great Sufi Mystics such as Kwaja Gulam Farid, Amir Khusro, Bulleh Shah, and Sultan Bahu. Original music produced and recorded in New Delhi. This production highlights the different moods of love, intoxication, separation, surrender, and celebration of the heart thru nritya (dance) and abhinaya (expression) climaxing with a dramatic union with the Divine through Sufi Dervish spins and Kathak chakars. Choreographed by Smt. Malti Shyam. Original Music by Raghvendra Bhattacharya.

4. Sancarana – Silent Movements(2010)
A creative presentation of dance and art together on stage themed in Buddhist philosophy. As artist, Satish Gupta, painted live haikus on the backdrop, Astha interpreted these spiritual couplets through Kathak dance. Live music with Sarangi, Flute, Tabla, Vocals accompanied by a deep narrative of the poetry and the echo of Singing Bowls. “Above the roaring ocean, the silence filled shell.” “This fleeting cloud, let me stitch it onto my quilt.”

5. Samarpan (2009)
The only way to enter the Boundless is to offer oneself to the Ultimate. Astha invokes the energy of Shiva through Shiva Kavitt and dance on Shlokas from the Shiva Puranas. Using Gayaki style of Dhrupad, she presents Shiva Stotram -Mahakal.Astha has won the hearts of many through her unique and imaginative renditions of the love and play between the Gopis and Krishna set to traditional Thumris, Chaitis, Hoaris.

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