"Alone, they are captivating, together, they are magic."
22 Jan 2007
Magic feast of tapping feet
DANCE DANCE: Das and Smith in performance
“Alone, they are captivating, together, they are magic.”
This is what Voice of Dance has to say about 62-year-old Kathak maestro Pandit Chitresh Das and 26-year-old American tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith, the freewheeling wunderkid from the Broadway hit show Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk.
An appetiser to the duo’s sumptuous East-West collaborative experiment, Indian Jazz Suites, was served at The Calcutta Club’s International Night on Saturday. Das, who needs no introduction, and Smith, the Emmy-winning protégé of Savion Glover, will put their “festival of feet” together again for the main course on January 28 (GD Birla Sabhagar, 6.30 pm, presented by Showhouse).
“I had always wanted to dance with (the late) Gregory Hines, which never happened. After having met Jason, I have no regrets. To match that kind of ferocity and power on stage, I have to really roll back the years, and I’m enjoying every moment of it,” the Kathak master tells Metro.
The two met more by chance than design, at the American Dance Festival in North Carolina in 2004. Jason was drawn to Das’s charisma and intrigued by the intricate patterns the Kathak artiste could weave with bare feet and five pounds of bells on his ankles. “When I saw what he could do with his bare feet, it was the most humbling experience of my life,” recalls Smith.
They connected backstage, which triggered a flurry of impromptu steps and a great creative partnership was born.
“The organisers spotted the magical chemistry and invited us back to perform at the same festival,” smiles the intense tapper, who pays explicit tribute to such old masters of the art like Jimmy Slyde, Peg Leg Bates and Arthur Duncan.
Having taken their Suites all across the US, they are quick to point out the concord “isn’t fusion” at all. “We are trying to find a common idiom without sacrificing the integrity of our respective arts,” Das explains. He has taken dance to a “holistic health level” with his ‘Kathak yoga’ where he dances, sings and also plays the tabla on stage.
“Tap is actually slang language, with new elements being added to the arsenal all the time, and is tightly knit with jazz, blues, R&B and gospel,” says Smith.
He was exposed to all these diverse elements, growing up in New York’s tap community, with jiving in his genes. While his father Jo Jo Smith choreographed John Travolta in the iconic Saturday Night Fever, mother Sue Samuels was also a jazz dancer.
The duo will also give a lecture-demonstration at American Center on January 29.