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Indian dance traditions thrive in SF

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Charlotte Moraga appears in “The Art of Kathak” at Z Space. (Courtesy Margo Moritz)
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Charlotte Moraga is dedicated to continuing the ancient art of Kathak, the complex classical Indian dance form combining storytelling, rhythmic footwork, lyrical gestures and improvisation.

“A Kathak soloist must dance, sing, recite and tell stories,” says Moraga, artistic director of the San Francisco-based Chitresh Das Institute, who is ushering in a new stage in the legacy established by Pandit Chitresh Das, the late Bay Area-based Kathak master.

She appears this weekend at Z Space in the world premiere of “​The Art of Kathak,” a solo she has choreographed for CDI’s inaugural season. The program also includes an excerpt of her work-in-progress​ “​Mantram”​ ​and an appearance by Chitresh Das Youth Company.

Kathak (Ka-tak) became young Moraga’s calling 25 years ago; she was a student, and then principal member, of the company headed by celebrated Kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das, who was known for respecting the form’s tradition, but for innovation as well.

Like her mentor, she has performed, choreographed and collaborated internationally, in India and as well as here in the Bay Area.

Last year at Cal Performances in Berkeley, she performed “Shiva,” a work she co-choreographed after Chitresh Das died suddenly in early 2015.

In “The Art of Kathak,” she will hold the stage for an hour, wearing ankle bells that accentuate percussive footwork, verbalizing the story with chants, song and recitation, and opening the dance with an invocation to the gods.

She’ll be accompanied by Grammy Award-winning tabla master Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri.

While the piece is choreographed, it’s also filled with improvisation, making every performance different.

“In spite of over a quarter of a century of experience, I still don’t know exactly what will happen, since so much takes place in the moment,” Moraga says.

“You plan and then you put your best foot forward,” she says, laughing. “Pun intended.”

IF YOU GO
Chitresh Das Institute Inaugural Concert
Where: Z Space, 450 Florida St.,S.F.
When: 8 p.m. July 21-22, 2 p.m. July 23
Tickets: $20 to $75
Contact: (415) 626-0453, www.zspace.org

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