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Fast footwork displayed in Indian dance at Folsom's Three Stages

By: Laura Newell, Telegraph staff writer
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FOLSOM CA - The world of Indian dance will come alive in Folsom this weekend when two dancers join forces. The performance is a collaboration between Pandit Chitresh Das, one of the world?s foremost masters of the of the barefoot, bell-bedecked North Indian dance called Kathak, and Emmy award-winning Jason Samuels Smith, one of the world?s fastest tap dancers. The dancers will also be accompanied by three top Indian classical musicians and three jazz musicians, to perform the India Jazz Suites. The India Jazz Suites is a dynamic conversation that uses rhythm and improvisation to communicate a deep appreciation of both traditions, as well as the pure joy of dance, said Dave Webb, with Three Stages. Pratibha Patel, of El Dorado Hills, started studying Kathak in 1988 with Das in San Francisco. In 2003, she became his disciple. After moving to El Dorado Hills in 2007, she opened a Kathak school in Folsom. Today, she is teaching in both El Dorado Hills and Folsom. ?India Jazz Suites is high energy. Audience members feel the high energy and connect to the art form,? Patel said. ?The two dancers will really connect with the audience. They command the stage. Each dancer will present their art form with a solo to the audience. And take the audience through all of the elements of the dance.? She said unlike some western dance performances, the audience is expected to applaud and interact with the dancers on stage during the dance. Audience members do not have to wait for the dance to be over to applaud. ?People will be impressed with this performance and will know what?s happening throughout,? she said. ?The dancers will stop and speak to the audience and be vocal to teach them what?s going on. This is not just a spectator dance. The audience should feel free to applaud and interact with dancers during the performance.? Kathak is a highly refined rhythmic structure and the subtle movements of the dancers? neck, head, wrists and eyebrows. The ghungroo, or ankle bells, weighing 3 to 4 pounds, are the dancer?s instrument, an expression of the body?s voice. The rapid footwork, deft spins and storytelling, accompanied by the North Indian classical drums, the tabla, and stringed instruments, all come together to create the dance, theater and musical expression that is Kathak, said Patel. ?If people have never seen this, it is a strong fast footwork. It also plays on the beat and rhythms of music and dance. It?s a very mathematical dance,? Patel said. ?The other element of Kathak is beauty. The dancers need to have delicacy and grace. They have to combine all of these elements to tell the story. In order to do this you have to be one with yourself, everything you do becomes one.? India Jazz Suites has toured India, Australia and the U.S. in the 2010-11 season and will tour to more than 10 cities in the U.S. through May 2012, with additional tours in Canada and India. Das and Smith first got to know each other backstage at the 2004 American Dance Festival. ?Over the years, they have created a communication with each other as they dance,? said Patel. ?They have grown and changed together throughout the years, so the show is always new and unique for audiences.? She said this style is for all ages and people. ?Indian art music may have been created in India, but it?s universal,? Patel said. ?Everyone can enjoy movement and singing. It?s something that connects people of all ages. Dancing can be so spiritual for people.? After seeing Friday?s performance, locals can try their feet at dancing. Patel?s studio, Chhandam-Sacramento, has teaching locations in both El Dorado Hills and Folsom. Beginning children, ages 5-8, and beginning teens/adults classes are held at the Indian Community Center on Thursday evenings in Folsom. ?Just come and watch a class or take a drop in class,? she said. ?You learn a lot about yourself through learning the dance form. It?s challenging, but you will always connect to something. This is a warm and safe place. Just enjoy the movement and be patience with yourself.? For information on classes, call (415) 333-9000, e-mail chhandam@kathak.org or visit kathak.org. The India Jazz Suites will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, May 11, at Three Stages, 10 College Parkway, Folsom. Tickets are $21-$34, with premium tickets for $39. For more information and tickets, visit threestages.net or call (916) 608-6888. * * * KNOW AND GO What: India Jazz Suites When: 8 p.m., Friday, May 11 Where: Three Stages, 10 College Parkway, Folsom Tickets: $21-$34, premium tickets $39 Information: threestages.net, (916) 608-6888