Gannon University Hosts Indian Dance Recital and Lecture by Austrian Diplomat

Shovana NarayanPosted: September 14, 2015

In South Asia, the relationship between student and teacher is one of extraordinary respect and reverence. "Guru," a word that has been debased somewhat in casual English usage, is a title that carries great weight.

On Tuesday, September 15, Anjali Sahay, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science at Gannon University who was a longtime student of a highly refined Indian classical dance form will present her guru, Padmashri Shovana Narayan, in a dance recital and lecture at the University's Yehl Room at 6:15 p.m. The Yehl Room is located in the Waldron Student Center, 214 W. Seventh St. Padmashri is the fourth-highest civilian award for culture and arts presented by the president of India.

Narayan is an acclaimed exponent of the ancient North Indian classical dance for known as kathak. Usually accompanied by Hindustani classical music, kathak is a unique blend of the ancient with the modern, and offers an unlimited scope for creativity. The name is derived from the Sanskrit words katha, which means story and kathakaar, which means storyteller. With origins in the 4th century BCE, kathak experienced a metamorphosis in the courts of the Mughal kings, incorporating a Persian influence that added intricate footwork, spectacular spins and exquisite expressions.

On Tuesday, Narayan, accompanied by two musicians, will present examples of kathak and will deliver a short talk about the development and meaning of the form.

Sahay's connection with her guru began when she was six years old. "She lived in our neighborhood in Delhi," Sahay said. "My older sister and I learned from her for over 13 years. She was such a strong personality that every time I had a question, I had to ask my sister to ask her."

Sahay's sister has a school of Kathak dance, InSyncKathak, in Fremont, California and has arranged Narayan's tour of the U.S. including Berkeley and Yale universities, in addition to Gannon. Other performances are in Houston; Dallas; Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia and Fremont.

Narayan is accompanied by her husband, Herbert Traxl, a former Austrian diplomat who will present a lecture on his experiences in postings in Africa, India and Iran.

The lecture, called "Reflections On a Diplomatic Career Between Europe and Asia," will be presented at 11 a.m. in Room 104 of the Zurn Science Center, 135 W. Seventh St.

Traxl was the Austrian ambassador to Iran from 1988 to 1990. He held the same position in New Delhi from 1998 to 2002 during his term in India he met Narayan.

"He is in a unique position to comment on the cultures of Iran and India in addition to his expertise in European politics and culture, and I also expect him to say a lot about the importance of studying languages and the importance of foreign relations," Sahay said.

Both events are free and open to the public.