I had media passes to this event. All opinions are my own.
I had the opportunity to enjoy seeing “Khoj” at the Firehall Arts Centre. The Firehall commences its 40th anniversary season with “Khoj – A Contemporary Kathak Dance Extravaganza”, by Edmonton’s Usha Gupta Dance Entourage, from Wednesday, September 21 to Saturday, September 24, 2022. It is a 90 minute performance with no intermission and honestly, you wouldn’t want an intermission as the show is so captivating. “Khoj” blends traditional and modern movement through the different forms of the ocean, romance, rhythmic pattern, inner search for spirituality, and finishes with Sufi (divine truth). In this performance, Usha Gupta’s dance ensemble reimagines Kathak, the classical form of dance from northern India. As a South Asian woman, I grew up watching traditional dance performances and as lovely as that was, they didn’t totally resonate with me because they were so formal. This modern spin on Kathak was so much fun to watch. Everything from the sights and sounds to the facial expressions of the dancers kept my eyes glued to the stage. This performance could be a gateway for younger audiences to get their feet wet, in terms of exposure to traditional dance, as it doesn’t feel “traditional” because it has a unique twist to it. I must say, I enjoyed every moment of the performance. There wasn’t a moment where you were not entertained. The traditional costumes, colours and choreography were phenomenal. There wasn’t a lot of fuss or extras, if you will. The performers lit up the stage all on their own. There was no need for props or over-the-top backdrops. Going into the performance, I knew that the word “khoj” means the search but other than that, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I felt all the emotions of searching, whether it be searching for love, spirituality, or divine truth. Searching is a beautiful thing. Searching, to me, means growth, wonder and learning. Usha Gupta’s presence on stage was extraordinary. She carries herself with such grace. When she watched her cast and worked alongside them, you could sense the quiet pride she had in them. All the performers: Riya Mittal, Dr.Sarah Virji, Palak Dhiman, Shyam Dattani and Anuj Arjun Mishra danced so beautifully independently but also seamlessly together. My heart is full. I left the theatre with a huge smile on my face. Not only was the performance entertaining to watch, it was also educational, in terms of music and culture. The performers were so incredibly talented. You could really tell they wholeheartedly love what they do. You simply can’t fake passion like that. My favourite part was the finale. They were all dressed in white. White symbolizes purity, cleanliness and peacefulness. Even if you didn’t understand the words of the song, you could still easily feel and understand what was being portrayed. This was the showstopper for me. It was absolutely magical. I cannot recommend seeing “Khoj-A Contemporary Kathak Dance Extravaganza” enough.