2020 Selma Jeanne Cohen Dance Lecture Awardee: Janaki Patrik

Janaki Patrik

Artistic Director, The Kathak Ensemble & Friends/CARAVAN, Inc.

Trained in both modern dance (Merce Cunningham studio scholarship, 1971 to 79) and classical north Indian Kathak dance (Pt. Birju Maharaj, Kathak Kendra and Kalashram, New Delhi, ongoing from 1967), Janaki Patrik has choreographed thirty full-evening productions and numerous smaller works. Her knowledge of Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Brij Bhasha and Bengali poetry has inspired dances as diverse as MANDALA X / The Hymn of Creation (1997) in Vedic Sanskrit, AGAMONI / Return of the Daughter in Bengali (2012) and WE SINFUL WOMEN (2017), based on Urdu feminist poetry. The musicality which is fundamental to her creativity in dance was developed in childhood during thirteen years of training in classical flute, culminating in lessons from Donald Peck, Principal Flutist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Artistic Director and Founder (1978) of The Kathak Ensemble & Friends, Janaki has presented solo and group productions in Canada, India, Sri Lanka and the United States at venues including Lincoln Center, Out-of-Doors Festival, Carnegie Hall/Silk Road Project, American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Danspace Project, Brooklyn Museum and Asia Society in New York City; Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; Premier Dance Theatre in Toronto; Carver Center in Austin, Texas; Philadelphia Museum; Indian International Center in New Delhi, and Indian Cultural Center in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
A dedicated teacher, Janaki’s ongoing technique and repertoire classes prepare students to perform an extensive selection of classical Kathak, as well as her new choreography, including MOZARTAYANA (Allegro from Mozart’s Symphony No. 41); FLASHPOINT (W.H.Auden’s LULLABY w Samuel Barber and John Adams’ Violin Concertos); CHEATING LYING STEALING (David Lang’s music of the same name); and BOLLYWOOD GOES CLASSICAL, restaging some of Bollywood’s most popular songs in classical Kathak style. She has been active in arts-in-education for three decades, leading in-school workshops and performing through Young Audiences/NY with a four-artist ensemble named CARAVAN.

Janaki’s writing includes the manuscript “KATHAK in AMERICA”, published in NARTANAM, A Quarterly Journal of Indian Dance, 4th Quarter 2011, Hyderabad, India; and a monograph entitled “PRODUCING ASIAN ARTS IN THE UNITED STATES : An American Triumvirate : Beate Gordon of Asia Society, Alan Pally of the NY Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, Robert & Helene Browning of World Music Institute ” published in the January / March 2014 issue of NARTANAM. She writes for NARTHAKI, Indian Dance Online, Dr. Anita Ratnam, Founding Editor, Chennai. Her column is entitled CHOREOGRAPHING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: India and the United States.

Significant awards include a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, 1988/89 to research Kathak’s poetic repertoire, and a Senior Performing & Creative Artist Fellowship 2008/09 from The American Institute of Indian Studies for research in India to study the curricula, syllabi and methodology for teaching Kathak, and to observe new developments in Kathak choreography.

Since poetry is the well-spring of Kathak’s storytelling techniques and repertoire, Janaki has acquired facility in many of the major languages and dialects of north India, including Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Brij Bhasha, Maithili and Avadhi. Ms.Patrik received a Bachelor of Arts degree, Phi Beta Kappa in Russian Language and Literature from Swarthmore College in 1966, and a Master of Arts from Columbia University, The Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures in May 2000.

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