Gannon Professor to Present Program of Indian Classical Dance

Posted: April 3, 2017

Anjali Sahay, Ph.D. is both associate professor of Political Science and International Studies and faculty senate President at Gannon University. Balancing those roles doesn't give her a lot of time to spare. But Sahay is also an accomplished practitioner of kathak, the ancient Indian dance form that will be the subject of her two-part program at the upcoming TEDxPSUBehrend conference on Saturday, April 8.

The first portion, "Vandana Trayee," begins with a dedication to the Hindu god Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, and the goddess Saraswati, the patroness of knowledge and the arts, and a reverence to the Guru or teacher, seen as equivalent to God. The music is a raga by the late sitar master Ravi Shankar and his pupil, George Harrison of the Beatles.

The second portion is a presentation of "Tarana" one of the most beautiful pieces in the Kathak repertoire with complex rhythmic patterns marked by intricate footwork, delicate and ornate hand movements and dizzying spins or pirouettes that accompany the musical syllables. "Tarana" is an acknowledgement of Sahay's own guru, Padmashree Shovana Narayan, who taught her kathak.

A short summary of the history and meaning of kathak and its roots in Hindu religious practice and its transformation over time were presented at Gannon University's annual Humanities CHESS Conference in February.

Sahay believes that her dance is simultaneously both local and global, traditional and contemporary. In notes for the performance, she stated her purpose as "to challenge established norms and develop the courage to dance [my] own dance, while at the same time being informed about the heritage, cultures, influences and language of other dance styles and forms, viewpoints and ideas."

"Dance keeps me rooted to my tradition, background and culture and helps me to have a creative outlet in my life," Sahay said. "At the same time, it helps me showcase my culture to a different audience. My child is American-born and she would not know her culture if I didn't expose her to it. My students are also interested in knowing this aspect of their teacher, and they're getting inspired to explore the next round of TED talks."

Registration for the series of TEDx talks is available by clicking here