The Center for Asian American Media is co-presenting an episode of Afropop. Upaj:Improvise, directed by Hoku Uchiyama, showcases two dance forms in seemingly separate worlds: kathak, an ancient dance from North India which has journeyed through Asia, later diverging to influence flamenco in southern Spain, and tap dance, a more contemporary American dance with deep ties to the American South. The show began airing on PBS stations this week.
Still, both Pandit Chitresh Das, a kathak master, and Jason Samuels, tap dance visionary, insist that their journey together for India Jazz Suites is not fusion; it is collaboration. Almost magically, they are able to maintain the integrity of their dense dance histories, while also learning and building off of one another. From this, we can take a second glance at Das and Samuel’s collaboration. Their two storytelling styles give a more fluid, connective shape to the definition of classic. Their collaboration also gives a fresh look at sharing community and dance style, by giving shared fluency to movement, geography and history.
Kathak, as well, is a diasporic dance form. Kathak comes from the Sanskrit word katha, meaning story, and is rooted in North Indian classical training, as well as nomadic culture. Eventually, kathak traveled around Asia, North Africa, and later made its way to southern Spain to influence what is now known as flamenco. This rooting and journey show a connection to modern American tap dance, which also comes from the melding journeys of West African dance, slave expression in the plantation south, and Irish stepdancing. When Das moves his studio to Fremont, California, he and Samuels meet and have the chance to work together – a telling example of the shared community and stories of diaspora.
PBS’s AfroPop series is a collection of works that are both routed and rooted, exploring roots with African diaspora, while also giving nuance to the various migrations and shifts of diaspora, and the creation emerging from those crossings.
CAAM is proud to co-present Upaj:Improvise. Please, check your local PBS station for schedule and airing time.