Choreographed by his guru, the piece imitates a train — traveling, speeding up, changing tracks, breaking, passing a railroad station.
Das has created traditional dance dramas (such as Darbar ) but also less traditional ones, such as Impressions of the California Gold Rush (1990), in which a trio of 49ers perform in ankle bells and cowboy outfits.
Sadhana (2001) is a multimedia solo evening about different forms of practice — dance, life, meditation. For his 60th birthday he created the autobiographical Sampurnam (2004) for himself and his company.
But Das's most innovative work has come with practitioners of other dance styles: The Guru (Bharata Natyam, 1991), Sole Music (tap and flamenco, 1986), Sugriya-Subali (Balinese, 2000), and East as Center (Kathakali and Balinese, 2003). His latest exploration in that direction is Jazz Suites, a collaboration with tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith that grew out of a friendly competition in the hallways of the American Dance Festival in 2004. The duo have been touring the piece around the country and will take it to India this winter.
While Das has been passionate about opening American eyes to the beauty of his art form, he is equally committed to doing the same for Indian audiences. He spends part of every year in Calcutta teaching, performing, and giving workshops. In 2002 he reopened his father's old school, which had trained Kathak dancers in Calcutta even before Indian independence. Last year Das started a training program for the children of Calcutta's sex workers; most recently he gave a lecture demonstration for professional Indian boxers about their connection with the Hindu goddess Kali and the monkey god Hanuman.
Clearly, one lifetime simply may not be enough to contain Chitresh Das, his artistry, his humanity, his passion. (Rita Felciano)