Review: Kathak Mahotsav Canada (Rina Singha Kathak Dance Organization)

Experience traditional Kathak dance at the Studio Theatre in Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

This year’s Harbourfront Centre’s NextSteps series started off with quite an original piece. Now in its 5th year, Rina Singha Kathak Dance Organization presents Kathak Mahotsav Canada at the Studio Theatre in Harbourfront Centre.

The festival is a four day event which includes performances by prominent Canadian and international Kathak artists. A pioneer of Kathak dance in Canada, and the driving force in keeping this ancient dance alive is renowned Rina Singha. Small in stature, but strong in presence, this Friday evening performance began with an endearing warm welcome from Rina Singha herself.

I’ll be honest, I had never heard of Kathak dance, but it was precisely this that intrigued my curiosity. As the musicians entered the stage, I was mystified by the percussive instruments. Opening with musicians Pandit Bharat Tiwari playing the pakhawaj, Shri Gurinder Singh playing the Tabla, Shri Harjit Pabla as vocalist, and Shri Rattan Bhamrah on the Israj, the audience was instantly lost in the melodic rhythms. Bhamrah’s string instrument, Israj, resembling a sitar was most unique to me.

Moments later prominent duet dancers, Hemant and Vaishali Panwar, charm the stage with their animated expressions, intricate hand and arm movement and stomping bare feet. Baring a slight resemblance to the Flamenco genre at first, the classical Kathak dance form soon began to take a presence of its own.

Based in the traditional Kathak of the Jaipur Gharana, Hemant and Vaishali Panwar clearly bring innovation and expertise to the piece. Succinct and in sync, the choreography is fluid, eye-catching and uplifting.

Accompanying this unique form of storytelling are Hemant and Vaishali themselves as they interject with various sounds, words and personal stories. This added an element of surprise and humour to the overall piece which was quite engaging.

Bol recitation, which are mnemonic syllables found in Indian rhythm performed by Ms. Salisha Purushuttam and Shri Harjit Pabla’s vocals highlighted the musical compositions.

I left the theatre this evening having been introduced to a very rich style of dance. Deeply and historically rooted in ancient India, Kathak dance is a beautiful display of Indian culture. Exquisitely performed and created, Kathak Mahotsav Canada is sure to continue to thrive with the passion of Rina Singha and her devoted followers.


Kathak Mahotsav Canada presented by Rina Singha Kathak Dance organization is an annual event that runs four days. It is currently running until September 23rd at 8pm at the Studio Theatre at the Harbourfront centre.

Adult single tickets cost $30.50. Discounted single tickets at $25 are available for seniors, students and group bookings. Tickets can be purchased by visiting or call 416-973-4000.

-For more information you can visit Kathak Mahotsav Canada official website: Harbourfront Centre’s BLOG and/or follow them on Twitter #danceTO.

Photograph of Rina Singha provided by Harbourfront Centre