About Pandit Birju Maharaj
The most extraordinary artist in the history of Kathak dance, Pandit Birju Maharaj, the artistic director of his company, is internationally recognized as the greatest living exponent of North Indian classical dance ‘Kathak’.
Beate Gordon, Director of performing Arts Department of the Asia Society, New York wrote: “Birju Maharaj is in the class of the great western performers such as Baryshnikov, Margot Fonteyn, Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. He is a phenomenon”.
Birju Maharaj was born in 1937 into a family of Kathak dancers. His father first taught him the form and then, after his father’s death, by his uncles. He is now recognized as the foremost master of Kathak dance, having long ago earned the distinguished social title of “Pandit”, reserved for those who are supreme masters of their art form. He has helped to re-popularize Kathak, marrying elements of both the ancient, holy style and the secular, dramatic style of later years, and pioneering the use of multiple dancers in his choreographies. Filled with technical virtuosity and flamboyance, Kathak is characterized by elaborate rhythmic footwork (tatkar), graceful spins (chakar), hand gestures (mudras) and subtle expression of moods and emotions (bhava-abhinaya). An extraordinary artist, Birju Maharaj integrates pure classical movements and style with a distinctly contemporary use of space in his choreographies.
Among many awards, Pandit Birju Maharaj has received the Sangeet Natak Academy Award (the highest civilian arts award) and the Padma Vibhushan (the highest presidential award for achievement) from the government of India. He was the invited choreographer at the American Dance Festival in Durham, North Carolina in 1991, and was honored with a special award at the prestigious Avignon Festival in Paris, France in 1995. He was the chief guest and performed at the international Kathak festivals at Chicago and at San Francisco.
The vocalist, percussionist, composer, poet, choreographer and dancer is a versatile artist. Not only on India, he is familiarly known abroad, nearly all over the world. Choreographic compositions of Pandit Birju Maharaj have been presented in most of the prestigious dance festivals in India, USA, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, USSR, China, Japan, Burma, Ceylon, Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia.
After the phenomenal success of Dance Workshops with the legendary Saroj Khan in 2016, and Shampa Gopikrishna in 2017, Sanskriti Arts (www.sanskritiarts.ca) is all set to present Dance Diaries 2018 with Legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj and Saswati Sen.
Pandit Birju Maharaj, an icon in the space of Kathak dance in India, is from the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers. He began teaching the dance form at the age of 13 at Sangeet Bharti followed by the Bharatiya Kala Kendra and the Kathak Kendra in New Delhi where he was Head of Faculty, and opened his own dance school, Kalashram, after retirement. He has choreographed Kathak dance sequences for many Bollywood films including Dedh Ishqiya, Umrao Jaan, and Bajirao Mastani directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and won many awards over the years including the Padma Vibhushan
“Sanskriti Arts brings its third chapter through its Dance Diaries banner in July for dance enthusiasts to acquire the art and get a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn and perform with the maestro himself, who has devoted a lifetime to the kathak form of classical dance,” says Puja Amin, founder of Sanskriti Arts. “We are following through on our commitment to our students to provide opportunities to tap their feet and train with the best talent the Indian dance industry has to offer. All I can say is every chapter of Dance Diaries will keep getting bigger and better,” she added.
Dancers will have three ways to engage with guest choreographers spread across four days from July 8- 11, 2018.
HSBC presents the Concert of the Legend at the Maja Apprentice theatre in Mississauga on July 8, 2018 at 12 pm where the 80 year old extraordinary artist in the history of Kathak dance, Pandit Birju Maharaj, internationally recognized as the greatest living exponent of North Indian classical dance ‘Kathak’, will perform along with his foremost disciple, Saswati Sen, as well as students.
From July 9-11, 2018, there will be a Kathak Workshop Series for beginners and advance students for both kids and adults on July 9 and 10 followed by a three hour Open class for Abhinaya, better known as Dance Expressions, conducted by the Maestro himself and Saswati Sen on July 11, to allow students to learn the tricks of the trade.
The workshops will take place at the Sanskriti Arts Dance and Fitness Studios in Mississauga and will be conducted for kids and adults. The Kid’s Class will be in age groups five to 11 years and the Adult’s Class will take in age groups 12 and above.
“This is a unique opportunity being provided for kids and adults from the Indian diaspora who will be trained by the Legend himself. They will add to their repertoire while learning new techniques and styles of kathak dance through this initiative. And with the Legend Pandit Birju Maharaj himself, Dance Diaries is bringing the Best of the Best flavours from India,” says Amin. For more information and registration, call Puja at 647-444-7151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.