When Indian classical dancer Manjari Chaturvedi makes her American debut on Sept. 22, she will not be wearing the bright, ornately embroidered costume that is typical of kathak dancers.
“I don’t want people to concentrate on the beauty of the body,” she said by phone recently from her home in Delhi.
Chaturvedi’s startling pronouncement — a dancer, shunning physical beauty? — puts her in rare company. Especially when she goes on to say that she’s uninterested in impressing audiences with her technical mastery or complicated rhythms.
But staking out new territory is nothing new for her. Chaturvedi, 37, claims to be the sole practitioner of “Sufi kathak,” a form of dance she created that blends the gestural storytelling of Indian kathak dance with the spinning meditation of Sufism.
She’ll be dressed all in black for her performances at the National Museum of the American Indian during the Smithsonian’s Sufism symposium, “Searching for the Divine Through the Arts.” Chaturvedi says her aim is to enter an ecstatic state with her twirling rotations and to convey what that feels like to the audience. It’s all about the transference of energy.