Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One Kirtan Down And Shuffling Off To Minneapolis

Last night I went to a kirtan (featuring Jai Uttal) with Melissa and our friend Jennifer. This was my second time going to one, but the first time was only a month ago (thank you Pia for hosting my first experience). Before that, I had no real idea what a kirtan was.

For those of you who know about kirtans, please excuse the simplistic, uneducated, and incomplete explanation that I am about to go through for those who are as uninitiated as I.

A kirtan is chanting done in a call and response format. Each chant can go on for quite some time--reminiscent of a jam band (think Blues Traveler or Grateful Dead). But, instead of pithy contemporary lyrics, the chants are incantations to Hindu gods and goddesses. The percussion and accompaniment bring the chants to an ecstatic frenzy at times and people burst out in dance.

I enjoy the music, the talent of the musicians, and the jubilant participants, but I am sing-a-phobic. I dread singing out loud, especially if I think the person sitting beside me can hear--even if she is my wife. As you can imagine, auditions for musicals (which I did early in my performing career) were torture for me.

For whatever reason (my phobia or my skepticism of metaphysics), I find that at this kirtan I was more of an outside observer than an inside participant--like a cultural anthropologist wondering how a traditional ritual compares and differs when it is adopted/adapted by contemporary affluent American culture at a yoga center behind the Crate and Barrel in Westport, CT. No answers--just questions.

Aside from the kirtan last night, the past six weeks have been busy with the start of the conservatory, getting Jakobi off on his senior year (and the planning for next year that it entails), and rehearsals for The Nutcracker, the Contemporary Dance Ensemble, and the Rhythm Tap Ensemble. In addition, I just arrived in Minneapolis tonight. I will be here for the next four days for the National Dance Education Organization annual conference.

I am presenting at the conference and this is new territory for me. So yeah, I am excited (if you allow that in this case ‘excited’ is just a more positive spin on the word ‘nervous’). I plan to participate in a number of workshops, presentations, and discussions while here and intend to share it through this blog. I am looking forward to an informal meeting about jazz dance pedagogy planned for tomorrow night as well as meeting up with two of my past professors--Kaye (from University of Akron) and Luc (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

Right now I am going to take a walkabout in Minneapolis

1 comment:

  1. kirtan is a portal to opening one's heart... we are not just chanting the names of gods and goddesses but directly to 'God'. the gods and goddesses represent the pure and utter devotion to this entity. it doesn't matter if we are affluent, white, a person of a variety of colors, poor, sitting in the middle of a developing third world country, in someone's living room or in a fancy yoga studio - it's all the same. even if the intention isn't pure - the vibration is. you get the benefits of kirtan whether you sing and dance loudly or just sit as an observer. you may not be able to notice what those benefits are, but on a deep level it is happening (even if you are skeptical - not that i am saying you are!) kirtan is a part of bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. by singing these names over and over inevitably, our hearts open. it may not be your path and it's a wonderful thing to be an observer to.

    that being said, i hope that some day you realize that your voice is a true reflection of your divinity within (no matter what shape/color/size/type it is) it is beautiful...

    here's some more about kirtan by KD:

    everything you read of course, will have a different slant to it because it is such a personal path to be on...

    you definitely picked the right musician to see to appreciate all levels of 'kirtan' - jai is one of the most talents musicians out there in this genre right now.

    hope things go well for you at your conference!
    peace to you,