Antara Bhardwaj is one of the most dynamic classical Indian artists of this generation. Born in India, she began her study of Kathak (north Indian classical story-telling dance) with her Guru, the late Pandit Chitresh Das, at the age of nine. She spent many years studying one-on-one with him in the traditional ancient Guru-disciple tradition and went on to become a Kathak soloist, a member of the internationally renowned Chitresh Das Dance Company, and a teacher for the Chhandam School of Kathak. Kathak is a solo art form, and true to the tradition, Bhardwaj focuses on her work as a solo artist. Building on the vision of her Guru, she delves deep into the tradition, at the same time discovering and developing her own unique, contemporary voice.
Bhardwaj cultivates to the highest degree the four elements essential to a Kathak dancer – tayari (technique), layakari (ability to play with rhythm), khoobsurti (beauty), and nazaakat (delicacy of the beauty), and is noted for her vibrant musicality. A trained vocalist, Bhardwaj continues to develop the tradition of integrated song and dance, through bhajan (devotional song), thumri (love lyrics), and kavita (poetry). She is a leading exponent of Kathak Yoga – a mind-body practice through which the dancer becomes her own instrument – singing, playing the harmonium, and dancing mathematically complex step sequences all at the same time. Kathak Yoga, an innovation within the traditional practice of Kathak, has been the subject of a doctoral dissertation at Harvard. It is rapidly gaining popularity as Bhardwaj and like-minded artists push the boundaries of traditional rhythmic virtuosity.
Another specialty of Bhardwaj’s lies in her dramatic story-telling, or abhinaya, even as gat-bhao, the traditional medium for telling stories through dance, is rapidly losing ground. Like the kathakas, or story-tellers, of old, Bhardwaj plays all her characters—whether they be male or female, human or spirit, animate or inanimate. In the words of Dance View magazine, Bhardwaj’s rendition of Jatayu’s death scene in Sita Haran “just about broke my heart.”
Bhardwaj’s panache and magnetism have dazzled audiences throughout the U.S. and India, performing at the International Kathak Festival (Chicago), Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, Wisc.), Disney’s REDCAT Theater (Los Angeles), the National Centre for Performing Arts (Mumbai), and in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She has had the honor of dancing at Kathak Kendra, the National Institute of Kathak Dance, with centers in Delhi and Kolkata. Her one-woman show “Tale of a Kathaka” took first prize at the Maui Theater Fringe Festival 2014; her solo at the Naari Festival in Kolkata was televised throughout India on the Doordarshan network.