19 Mar 2009
The Maui News
‘India Jazz Suites’
Fast feet cover lots of distance East to West
By SKY BARNHART, Contributing Writer
Their dance styles are oceans apart. Their expertise comes from different countries, different cultures, different generations. But when these two men get together onstage in "India Jazz Suites" tonight in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater, they'll be united in their love of dance - and their flying feet!
Pandit Chitresh Das and Jason Samuels Smith first met backstage at the 2004 American Dance Festival. Das, a seasoned master of Kathak classical dance of North India, wanted to get the attention of the young tap wizard. So he just started dancing in his bare feet, setting the bells around his ankles a-jingling. Smith was spellbound and wanted to know how he did it.
After the festival, the two began to dance together and found they actually had more in common than they thought. Both dancers started showing amazing talent while they were still very young and began performing as children. Both share a passion for pushing rhythmic boundaries, and for bringing communities together through the arts. Their friendship and collaboration continued to grow out of mutual respect for each other's work.
Das' innovation has profoundly influenced Kathak dance worldwide, not only through his masterful dancing but as a choreographer, composer and director. Trained from age 9 by his guru, Pandit Ram Narayan Misra, Das has roots in both major Kathak traditions - the grace and sensuality of the Lucknow School, and the dynamic power of the Jaipur School. He adds his own creativity to his classical training, leading to international recognition that continues to pour in, even in his 60s - an age when most dancers are content to rest on their laurels. His work schedule is impressive, touring as a solo artist and with the Chitresh Das Dance Company throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.
In a shorter time span, Smith has made a major impact on the world of tap. From the age of 15, when he landed a role in the Tony Award-winning Broadway tap musical "Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk," Smith was drawing attention for his lightning-fast feet. He won an Emmy and American Choreography Award for "Outstanding Choreography" in a 2003 tribute to the late Gregory Hines. He was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the City of Los Angeles for creating the First Annual Los Angeles Tap Festival, and has received numerous accolades for his innovation and humanitarian efforts.
While on Maui this week, Smith led tap classes at the MACC and at Kula Underground Studio. Rebecca Pelissero of Maui Tap Experience says the tap community is excited for tonight's show, calling it "a unique experience for local audiences.
"Both dancers are at the top of their art forms, yet still growing and creating," Pelissero says. "These guys love working together andare inspired by each other to reach new heights."
The two rhythm artists received the Isadora Duncan Dance Award for best ensemble performance of 2007 for "India Jazz Suites," and their collaboration is currently the subject of a full-length documentary film titled "Upaj," scheduled to air nationally on PBS in Spring 2010.
The hills are alive with "The Sound of Music" for one last weekend as Maui OnStage wraps up its successful run of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical at the Historic Iao Theater. Highlights include a charming rendition of "So Long, Farewell" by the von Trapp children; soaring Latin hymns by the sisters of Nonnberg Abbey; delightful costumes by Sarah Loney; and a live orchestra directed by Robert E. Wills. The lovely Leighanna Edwards stars as Maria, and Steven Michaels is a dashing Captain von Trapp. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Students 18 and younger can get in for $10 with a donation of two canned food items to the Maui Food Bank. MOS also offers dinner theater packages with Caf O'Lei for $40 beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, $15 for the Sunday matinee; available at If the Shoe Fits, 21 N. Market St., and online at www.mauionstage.com.
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Peter Rockford Espiritu, artistic director of Tau Dance Theater, is bringing his talented dancers to Maui for the fifth annual Hawaii-Japan Youth Exchange Concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. In addition, young dancers from Tau (y2), HITS Dance Space, Japan's Yuko Anami Ballet, Kapolei Choral and winners and competitors of the fourth annual Earnest T. Morgan Slam will share the MACC's Castle Theater stage in SLAM 2009, a night of dance and music featuring Raiatea Helm. The winners of the choreographic competition receive cash prizes of more than $2,000. Tickets are $20; $10 for students, senior citizens and military.
Bookings for Heart Tours' new educational theater production, "Crossroads," are filling up, with upcoming shows at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26, at the Maui Family YMCA; and at noon Thursday, April 2, at Kamali'i Elementary School. "Crossroads" enlists the help of young audience members as two bumbling pirates and a talking parrot follow a treasure map through slippery jungles and mysterious mountains to discover the value of true friendship. To book a school performance or for more information, call Tom Althouse at 276-0662 or visit www.heart-tours.com.
Contact Sky Barnhart at firstname.lastname@example.org.