Leela Dance Collective’s Los Angeles premiere of Son of the Wind brings together the world’s leading kathak artists to charter new and unprecedented directions in kathak dance. Featuring a cast of all-female kathak dancers, Son of the Wind is powerful as it turns history on its head by presenting a full cast of women playing roles both male and female. Son of the Wind takes the art form deep within itself and highlights its original expressive form - that of storytelling on Saturday, September 14 at 8:00 p.m. at the Ford Theatres.
Kathak comes from the word "katha" which means story. The kathakas were storytellers that travelled from village to village in ancient India telling the stories of the great Hindu gods and goddesses. While the depiction of Hindu iconography remains visible in modern day kathak, the tradition of telling epic tales through kathak has been left behind by most contemporary practitioners of the art form in favor of more contemporary, abstract, or accessible explorations. Son of the Wind is your classic, tour-de-force kathak dance drama centered around the adventures of Hanuman, the infamous Hindu god who proves to be a central force in the timeless and universal battle between good and evil as told in the Indian epic, the Ramayana. The show provides an opportunity for audience members to experience kathak in its full expression - as dance, music, theater, poetry, mime - integrated into one. The production is directed by Pandit Chitresh Das' senior disciples, Seibi Lee, Rachna Nivas and Rina Mehta. The show features an original score along with an ensemble featuring some of India's finest musical artists.
According to South Asian Studies scholar Philip Lutgendorf, who attended the world premiere of Son of the Wind (at Sonoma State's Green Music Center, April 2017), "As a Ramayana scholar who also enjoys dance, I was struck both by the production’s sophisticated conception (incorporating several strands of Rama-epic lore, both classical and folk) and by the professionalism of its execution by an all-female cast... Given that traditional lila performances of epic stories in India generally feature exclusively male casting, even in female roles, the gender reversal here was striking, especially given the predominant martial mood (vīra rasa) of most of the episodes—though the dancing was so powerful and effective, the costuming and makeup so beguiling, that I forgot about gender during the show.” Lutgendorf continues, “With its technical brilliance, emotional power, and reverent yet creative reinterpretation of sacred epic, Son of the Wind, staged by American women of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, was world-class transnational dance theater that celebrated Indian performance traditions even as it innovated within them and challenged cultural stereotypes.”