Hyderabad, June, 2017: An energetic Kathak recital by performing artist Raveena Singh was witnessed by the audience at Lamakaan. The performance presented an amalgamation of dance with spiritual pursuits beyond religious confines. The budding artist from Delhi blended the traditional Bhakti approach of Indian classical art forms with feisty technical elements of Nritta. She then went on to display the ascetic and symbolic representation of Shiva- the Destroyer and Lord of Dance. This ultimately flowed into a representation of the soulful union of the individual with the Greater Universal Power that is the essence of Sufism. All of this was neatly tied up with a power packed conclusion in the form of a Tarana.
Raveena has been training for over 19 years being 23 herself. Her Guru, Sri Ram Kumar, is a seasoned Kathak exponent who has been propagating the art form for over 50 years and has also trained Bollywood actor Ayesha Jhulka. Guru Ram Kumar and Raveena have always looked for ways to explore vast movement and ideological possibilities by delicately expanding the constraints placed by classical art forms. Thus Raveena’s style goes beyond the traditional Jaipur gharana of Kathak, drawing inspiration from styles like ballet and contemporary, not in form, but in approach. This drive for the expansion of boundaries brought about the diverse conglomeration she chose to exhibit.
Music and dance know no bounds and the prevalent usage of each in mystical pursuits indicates so. Raveena went beyond odds to highlight the harmonious relationship that can be shared among these pursuits while religion remains only a means, not an end.
Kathak dance performances traditionally begin with an invocation to God. Using this as a starting point, Raveena presented the Madhurashtakam in praise of Krishna who is the universe himself. The piece flowed through succinct moments from his life: as the Maakhanchor, the young boy who destroyed the venomous serpent Kalia, and the protector who saved the honour of Draupadi. This was followed by a powerful Kathak piece highlighting the strong, technical prowess demanded by the art form. Raveena believes that the practice of a rigorous art form is a tapasya in itself which prepares the body to fathom what the mind yearns through spirituality. Shiva, the ultimate yogi, and the Lord of Dance was symbolized and presented through the Shiva Tandava Stotram. Shiva destroys the evil, the ego and its false identification with form thus enabling the union of the individual with the universe. This union is just what is sought through the soulful practice of Sufism. The Sufi
ideal goes beyond external conduct, which is the imposition of religions, and focuses on inner purity. Raveena used the popular Sufi song ‘ChaapTilak’ by Amir Khusro to
express the love and devotion preached by Sufism. The piece was embedded in a Kathak base as singing and dancing are regarded as methods to induce ecstasy which brings one close to the realization of God.
Thus she goes a full circle, transcending barriers across religions which all come down to the same teaching. She finally immersed herself into a zestful Tarana (a traditional composition in Hindustani classical music based on Arabic and Persian phonemes) as she showcased her command over the vivid technicalities of Kathak including the demanding chakkars or pirouettes and the vigorous footwork, all the way through to the last piece as the crowd reverberated with the dynamic beats.
Raveena Singh has a Masters in Psychology from Delhi University. She has also completed her Bachelor’s degree in Kathak dance from Prayag Sangit Samiti. Raveena, being a passionate dancer, has studied various dance forms (Kathak, Bollywood, Contemporary, Chau, Belly dance, hip hop) and worked with several dance companies. She has performed in a large scale musical called Zangoora at the Kingdom of Dreams in Gurgaon by Wizcraft International. She has also performed in an international cultural festival- StudVesna in Chita, Russia. Currently, she is a Kathak artist in the successfully running musical- Mughal-e-Azam at NCPA, Mumbai.