London: After conducting classes for about a month at the West Kensington centre of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, in London, recently, Saswati Sen gave a farewell solo performance highlighting the salient features of the Lucknow gharana (school). And what a wonderful experience it was!
The dancer’s ornamentations and variations increased the pleasure of the bols (rhythmic dance syllables); thus building up the excitement to a point of summation which is known, appropriately, by the term, sam.
Two dance pieces were seen in London for the very first time and how refreshing they proved to be. In the first, based on the Radha-Krishna legend, we witnessed Radha having a joke at the expense of her divine lover. She gets Krishna to dress and behave like her while she takes on the role of Krishna. Sen danced both parts and brought out female guile, as practised by Radha, particularly well. The second piece was an example of Sen’s own choreography. She took a mystical poem by South Indian poet Purandaradasa (16th century) and set it to Kathak.
[Reginald Massey, The Dancing Times, October 1994.]
N Delhi: Shakespeare’s immortal Romeo and Juliet presented in the Kathak idiom by Kalashram at the Kamani, was al it promised to be. In realisation of a life-long dream, Saswati Sen’s outstanding choreography brought alive the doomed love between son and daughter of two warring factions. In group designing of scenes of market cacophony or ballroom celebration, in quality of dancing, in magnificent set designing by Anup Giri, and in smooth interweaving of Birju Maharaj’s music with the modern Western tones of Louis Banks’ music and in never allowing tempo to be slackened, the production left little to be desired.
[Leela Venkataraman, The Hindu, April 16, 2004.]
Ahmedabad: Tagore Hall was packed with not a seat left empty. The curtain soon opened to Romeo and Juliet and a flurry of electrifying activity in a public place in Verona. A sense of excitement and expectancy in the auditorium was palpable. The audience was perfectly in tune with the trials and tribulations of the ‘star-crossed lovers’........ at curtains it was time for a standing ovation for the nearly 50-strong cast led by choreographer and lead actor Saswati Sen. A rich and rare theatre experience, memorable for the aesthetic standards and bold innovations associated with it, very satisfying as much aurally as visually.
[SD Desai, The Times of India, Ahmedabad, December 7, 2007.]
Kolkata: The city got a feel of India under one roof at Music Beyond Borders at Kala Mandir on Friday... tabla maestro Kumar Bose helped Kathak exponent Saswati Sen dance her way to the viewer’s hearts.
[The Times of India, Kolkata, February 2, 2008.]
New Delhi: The starting Jhapa tala treatment based on the wonderment of Wordsworth’s poem daffodils wove thaat and amad and tukras into as spellbound picture of joy at nature’s bounty in the filed of daffodils. Shringar became the mood of the 12-matra sequence strung to a ghazal line Lai hai muzda fasal-e-bahara tere liye with Saswati’s springy grace and gat brimming with subtle shades of shringar. Intra forms like Dhataka Thung Takita Thunga and the Gopuch ginti tihai, all familiar in the 16-matra cycle, were fitted into the 12-matra cycle with finesse. The 14-matra Dhamar became a tandav/lasya contrast on Shiva and Krishna. A truly evocative performance and Saswati still has all the magic of subtlety in her Kathak.
[Leela Venkataraman, The Hindu, May 2, 2008]
NYC: Saswati Sen, one of Birju Maharaj's primary disciples, and a famous teacher herself, opened her presentation using a time cycle of nine and a half beats, then used various similar complexities to render Valmiki's highly emotional story concerning the seduction of Ahalya, wife of the Maharishi Gautam, by the demi-god Lord Indra in disguise, followed by her punishment by ossification and subsequent rescue by Lord Rama.
By then, I was seeing for the first time exactly what my own Kathak guru, Prahlad Das, had meant by his mild but constant admonition, "Arms like snakes, hands like butter, and remember that each of your bells represents a star in the sky."
[http://zadeblog.blogspot.com, October 7, 2006.]
San Francisco: Vidushi Saswati Sen has moved from her early likeness to Indian miniatures into an artist whose abhinaya and stories are vastly satisfying. She did her share of bols recitations, but it was her depiction of Yashoda in early morning, rubbing her eyes, opening the shutters and feeling the rays of the sun, completing her morning ablutions, filling her water jar, observing Krishna still asleep, then cooking and feeing Krishna with her fingers, before seeing him off to play that lingers for its verisimilitude, delicacy and grace.
[http://www.ballet.co.uk/dcforum/happening/5872.html, October 2, 2006.]
N Delhi: Kathak veteran Saswati Sen may regret the belated award [Sangeet Natak Akademi's 2004 awards] though she alone commanded the privilege of a whole evening to herself – converted into a mehfil rather than a formal programme. With a fine tablist in Debashish Mukherjee and superb vocalist in Debashish Sarkar, it was Saswati in full cry, in her familiar identity as Pandit Birju Maharaj's prime disciple. Thaat in teen tala was conceived in the mood of anticipation. The nine-matra Basant tala revelled in ginti tihais – perhaps one too many, though superb – in the ascending, descending order and as addition and subtraction arithmetic for children as visualised by Birju Maharaj. Kin beran kaan bhare, mor piya mose bolat nahi saw Saswati's abhinaya skill.
[Leela Venkataraman, The Hindu, Sep 9, 2005.]
Allahabad: The evening began with the presentation of ballet by the students of Kathak Kendra, Parvati Parinay. In this Jai Kishan Maharaj made a very disciplined Shiva, with the most classic depiction of facial expression. Saswati Sen was amazingly graceful as Parvati.
[January 16, 1993.]