Najma Ayashah, Kathak Dance exponent of the Jaipuri Tradition, is known to have enriched and integrated the great Jaipur tradition of Kathak with elements of folk and Gypsy dance with an unusual sense of aesthetic adventure and free form. Her creative repertoire finds expression in integrated compositions with cross-cultural or fusion pieces performing to music and rhythms of Flamenco, Africa and Middle East. Najma originally studied Kathak Dance and tabla at the Lahore School of Music; and from there, entered the Kathak Kendra in New Delhi where she humbly studied under the guidance of the illustrious Guru Kundan Lal Gangani, the distinguished and internationally renown master of Kathak Dance. Najma has been teaching and performing extensively throughout the world since the age of 16; and is currently a faculty member at NYU continuing the teaching tradition of Kathak Dance. Najma is the Artistic Director of Gangani Kathak Dance Co. New York City.

Najma has also devised a new style of health and fitness featured at the yoga organizations and health clubs, a mystical dance exercise called "Yoga Dance." She resides in New York city where she teaches on-going classes in Kathak, yoga dance and Indian folk dances.

Reviews

"comparable in grace and scope to Plisetkaya"...the effect was mesmerizing..." Dance Magazine

"Najma is the embodiment and living proof of the universality of Indian Dance- the totality of art and oneness with the world" Wind & Spirit Dance Magazine

"Renewing and inspiring performance..working from a strong center, she flashes out expertly to complete each design with rhythmic perfection." New York Times

 

Kathak Dance is a classical dance of North India. Its history goes back to vedic times when bands of story tellers roamed the countryside narrating stories from the great Hindu epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Kathak is a dance of communication reflecting the total philosophy of life. It adheres to tradition yet, at the same time, it develops in new directions. Kathak is a vehicle for all emotions. It is universal in concept; unlike other Indian classical dances, it absorbs other cultures. With its wide range of rhythmic patterns, hand gestures and emotions, Kathak not only gives us insight into Indian thought and idealism, but also realizations within ourselves.

The coping stone of the Kathak edifice is the brilliant footwork in which lightning pirouettes are executed by the dancers and complex variations on the rhythm patterns by the dancer compete with the rhythm instruments.

Kathak's special attributes are its blend of the divine androgyne-the intellectual, the suggestive, and the abstract.

 

Guru Kundan Lal Gangani was during his lifetime one of the prime exponents of the Jaipur style of Kathak dance. He was one of the last of many generations of dancers within his family who was instrumental in preserving the oral tradition... the pure tradition of transmission from guru to disciple.His family tree also encompasses many tabla masters and singers. Without this the generational passing down of knowledge, these forms would not have survived until our time, and we as dancers feel privileged and blessed to be part of such a tradition. The the richness of knowledge our guru passed on to us will be forever treasured by all.

He is survived by his sons Rajendra Kumar Gangani, who carries on the tradition of his father at the Kathak Kendra in New Delhi. Also, Haraish Gangani, Govind Gangani are teaching and performing throughout the world.

His sons Fateh Singh Gangani and Krishna Gangani carry on the tradition through accompaniment on the tabla and passing on the tradition worldwide.

Guru Kundan Lal Gangani & disciples

COSMIC DANCE OF SHIVA Nataraja - the lord of dancers showing his fivefold activity, the expressionn of his divine totality. His dancing limbs convey through their movements and symbols of the fivefold action of creation, maintainance, dissolution, veiling-unveiling and liberation. Shiva dances the cosmos into existence, upholds its existence and dances it out of existence. (back)

From the dawn of creation, the wild god, whose name is Rudra is Consciousness. He is the great yogi, the guardian of the absolute. The androgen god. Shiva says of himself " I am the originator, the god abiding in the supreme bliss. I, the yogi, dance eternally." The celestial dance of Shiva, the cosmic dace, and the dance of destruction-creation have the universe for their stage.

BANJARA OR GYPSY STYLE DANCE - When you witness Gypsy dance, you will be moved by the overwhelming depth of expression drawn from real life experiences. The strong presence of Gypsies reflects their flexibility to adapt to the changing world. Here, attention to line and form are not the emphasis but rather ability to draw from ones soul and communicate passion.

One of the most common dances performed in India today is the Cobra Dance. Performed at fairs and festivals throughout India, the dancer both reflects the snake charmer and the cobra expressing the sensuous gyrations of the union between the cobra and snake charmer.

Duffali Dance - The duffali or (tambourine) is used and a percussive instrument together with ghungaroos (ankle bells) to express explosive rhythmic patterns and graceful body movements generating a lot of excitement and stimulation of the senses with fast spinning turns. Improvisation is at it's best here.

Wedding Dances are held through India and Europe. Gypsies are usually hired as the entertainment. There are various songs and dances depicting the presentation of the bride's' ornaments and how she wears them one by one.

Gypsies are also called upon to perform for funerals and memorials where the dancer takes on the physical characteristics of the dead and acts as a medium of communication. (back)

KALIYA DEMON Reflects Lord Krishna as a child defeating the evil serpent Kaliya, the seven headed serpent inhabitating the Jumuna River, destroying all life with his poisen. One day, Kirshnia was playing ball on the banks of the Jumuna River, and the ball bounced in to the river, and Kirshna decided once and for all to drive this evil serpent away. (back)

 

NRITTA A solo presentation wherein the dancers performs the traditional form in the time cycle of 16 beats (tintaal). A unique feature will be the spontaneous improvisations that she will show in the rhythmic phrases. Accompanied by tabla, and sarangi, the dancer creates new passages of footwork and movements. It displays the technical aspects of Kathak, including elaborate footwork, hand gestures and body movements. (back)