Classical music has Classic FM, and though you can’t do dance on radio, you could certainly imagine a Ballet or Contemporary FM. Waqt (“time”), by Gauri Sharma Tripathi, is possibly the first example of Kathak FM. The show, performed by the Ankh dance company, presents a type of kathak, the classical dance style originating in north India, that is neither too traditional nor too experimental, while at the same time palatable and well produced.
Tripathi is an excellent dancer, but her opening solo is the most determinedly middlebrow part of the show: swirling out from mists in a lovely costume, she performs a long, essentially classical number that is well danced, well constructed and, well, nice. Much better is a driving, hypnotic section with Tripathi and her four dancers beating rhythms against the floor and spinning on the spot, like spindles rattling on a mechanical loom. A later solo sees her in erotic rapture, shoulders squeezed with pleasure; she veers towards hamminess, but stays within the bounds of good taste. Niraj Chag’s music, ranging from classical songs to coolly urban vibes, may be easy listening but it is consistently good.
It would be snooty to criticise Waqt just for being easy on the eye, ear and mind; but it has deeper flaws. The “time” concept is too slack a thread to string together these disparate episodes. Tripathi’s four-woman ensemble are good if unexceptional kathak dancers, but they are far too tentative in the more freeform choreography. And those experimental sections are themselves mere germs of ideas, hesitantly explored. If Tripathi is looking for a niche in the mainstream, her act needs to sharpen up; if she is aiming for something more idiosyncratic, she needs to move beyond the comfort zone.