Darbar Series: The Making of Darbar

Posted on February 22, 2012 by


The Chitresh Das Dance Company (CDDC) is pleased to announce the world premiere of Darbar, created by renowned kathak masterPandit Chitresh Das. Presented in partnership with the Asian Art Museum (AAM) and the exhibition Maharaja: the Splendor of India’s Royal Courts, this new work is performed in traditional kathak dance drama. Performances run at Samsung Hall of the Asian Art Museum, March 15-18, 2012.

Darbar (translated as “the court”) highlights the artistic renaissance that took place in the courts of North India as well as the methodology of divide and rule utilized by the British to conquer India and eventually dissolve the same courts. The story is loosely based on that of king Wajid Ali Shah, a ruler known both for his decadence and for his revival of kathak. Ali Shah, so distracted by his indulgences, failed to notice that his general was being tempted by the British to betray him. Darbar is both a representation of the rich artistic and cultural legacy of the courts of North India as well as a statement about the responsibility of power and the risk of corruption—concepts still relevant today.

“With Darbar I am able to talk about power, about politics, and about art through the tradition of kathak,” said Das. “In kathak lies the art of my message, of movement and dance, of costumes, of finding what happened in India in the 1700s and 1800s that is relevant to modern audiences, whether they be in San Francisco or Mumbai. Just as the Maharaja exhibit explores the power and dynamics of the maharajas, so this art reflects that history and brings it alive for the modern day.”

Darbar features the dynamic dancers of the Chitresh Das Dance Company, including Charlotte Moraga, Seibi Lee, Joanna Meinl, Rachna Nivas, Rina Mehta, and Labonee Mohanta. The dancers are accompanied by world-class musicians, including vocalist Debashis Sarkar (vocals), Jayanta Banerjee (sitar), and Ben Kunin (sarod). Ramesh Misra performs on the sarangi, a rare bowing instrument that mimics the human voice (the sarangi player uses the cuticles of the fingers to manipulate the instrument).

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Part of Pandit Chitresh Das’ Winter 2012 India Tour, involved meeting with local designers to talk about the intricate costumes to be showcased in ‘Darbar.’  Panditji reviewed the production, scene by scene, with the designers – choosing from a lavish palette of colors to create costumes that will take audiences back to the 1800s!  See the photos below (photos by Ritu Mathur)!

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Here is a message and video treat from Ritu, who was able to capture Pandit Chitresh Das’ choreography behind the scenes!  Click here to see the clip: The Making of Darbar.

“Namskar all,

Between traveling, press interviews, and performing in numerous cities, believe it or not, Guruji has also been working full force on preparations for Darbar! I’ve been documenting the work as we go and wanted to share the exciting developments: in these videos and photos you’ll see Guruji working with the musicians, choreographing, sharing his vision with the costume designers, and telling the story of Darbar as only Guruji can, transporting all of us to the regal courts of India. It’s so amazing to be here and literally watch the production begin to take shape!


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