Buried in oceans of calm: The dance duet by Navtej Johar
and LokeshBharadwaj was an unhurried, restrained meditation, punctuated
by bouts of ferocity......While in the hands of lesser performers,
this stillness may have been tedious, in the masterful hands of
Johar and Bharadwaj, the quiet was deafening.....Johar is a mesmerising,
feline performer with fervid, glittering almond-shaped eyes that
smouldered and chilled with the seasons. Bharadwaj, though smaller
in stature, came across as the more physically imposing....Though
Johar's choreography may have been clean and plain, the authority
displayed by the dancers - and the seamless connection between
them - made Frenemies a must-watch
Lisabel Ting, The Strait Times, July 4, 2015
Indian dance artist Navtej Johar treats us to a work with such
cool elegance............with fellow male performer LokeshBharadwaj
[the two] take on the female roles and offer a slow-burn sensuousness
from start to finish. . . Johar’s predominantly measured
and acutely slow choreography [is] positively hypnotic . . .
Frenemies transmits sensations to full effect . . .The tensions
between the two roleplaying dancers are subtle, and the menace
simply simmers — but they are there.
Mayo Martin, TODAY online, Singapore, July 4, 2015
It’s pretty revolutionary to have traditional Indian dance
performing ANY narrative beyond the Mahabharata or the Ramayana.....and
here Navtej Johar and LokeshBharadwaj are doing a queer play
about two queer maids who want to murder their mistress.
Every movement seems borrowed from classical dance, even the
strange moments where they tremble holding teacups or cradle
forks and platters. Even as (particularly when?) they dominate
one another, asserting mastery and servitude….They become
one another’s nawabs and slaves, one sitting and gazing
imperiously at the audience while the other fans the other,
like something out of a Mughal miniature…..It’s
queer rather than gay.....Yeah, not a gay pride thing. This
show isn’t proud of male-male love. It’s interested
in how (when?) it doesn’t work......But that moment towards
the end, where they move into a divine pair, standing, progressing
slowly towards us as if in a dream or mist, like a god and his
Ng Yi-Sheng, Singapore International Arts Festival Blog,
July 3, 2015
Trim but commanding, Johar radiates charisma and dominates the
work. His controlled bharatanatyam training yields a crisp attack
– with pounding footwork, he cuts through the space with
the precision of a surgeon’s knife. . .But he also exhibits
consummate grace. His delicate, filigreed gestures rivet the
eye with their clarity.
Citron, Globe and Main, Toronto, Aug 15,2010
I can’t help but gush about . . . the duet of doomed love
performed by Navtej Johar, Sikh bharatanatyam dancer of
mature years opposite a young dancer Anil Panchal,
was searing in it’s intensity: it’s beauty and emotion
could burn a hole . . . The added visual depth of the partner’s
contact work to their existing vocabularies of bharatanatyam
and chau gives the performance a universal language. We need
to bring the production of FannaRanja Re-Visited back
to the UK for an extensive tour. Promoters help!
Pulse Asian Music and Dance, UK, 2010
The fact that we experience Johar’s need for an explosion
viscerally and that the explosion itself has the quality of
consummation makes Johar’s Dance Works, one of the few
truly modern, angst ridden interpretations of classical dance
in our time.
Serbjeet Singh, The Hindustan Times, Nov. 1997
new confidence is not so much about technique or repertoire,
it is about dancing well. Navtej has brought into this form
an aura of other worldliness. . . [he] shows how thin the dividing
line between madness and genius can be. . . Navtej has surpassed
Khokhar, The Times of India, Nov. 1997
What Navtej achieved in his performance was a stiff brushing
away of the cobwebs of imagery that Bharatanatyam had acquired
over the recent years. And in abandoning its decorative aspect
Navtej happened upon its design, its taut geometry, its power
of suggestion and communication without drowning in spiralling
contexts and syntax. It is in this vein that Navtej’svarnam
became an exercise in joy . . . a tour de force.
The Pioneer, New Delhi, Nov. 1997
To "see" the face of Radha of the Gita Govinda.
. . through the facial forestry of Navtej was verily a look
into the heart of Radha. . . With total absorption in the Sahitya,
with inner clarity and understanding of the subliminal restraint
that classical dance requires, Navtej made the item live and
Serbjeet Singh, The Hindustan Times, Feb. 1996
form alone, Navtej triumphs . . .[his] Bharatanatyam is soaked
in bhakti . . . His face and dance register an inner stillness
akin to a yogi’s--something difficult to attain in dance,
the art of motion.
Khokhar, The Times of India, 1996
dancers attain that inner growth which alone gives to the dance
that sense of discovery. Navtej Johar is one of those rare Sikhs
doing Bharatanatyam, who has managed to experience that visceral
communication with one’s inside through the dance. Sublime
and ecstatic in Radha’s recollected image of Krishna.
. . the dancer’s rendition had a beatific quality.
The Hindu, Feb. 1996
Navtej’s abhinaya is exceptional. It has a depth and a
dignity, a maturity of its own.
Khokhar, The Times of India, 1994
like a veritable flying messenger from Heaven, Navtej Singh,
showed himself to be a dancer not afraid of listening to the
voice of silence. . . [he] gave to the performance a rare power.
. . There is a raw masculinity in Navtej’s dance which
the dancer never tries to prettify.
The Hindu, Dec. 1994
is a purist’s delight. With his clean lines, agile body
and abounding energy Navtej Singh poured out his creativity.
. . His mature handling of the sahitya is coupled with a deep
and emotional blend of complete ‘bhakti rasa’. .
. the aesthetic experience of pure joy is felt while watching
Chandigarh Tribune, Jan. 1994
Watching Navtej perform on stage, one senses almost a metamorphosis
of his body, finely tuned with the emotion and gender of the
Jolly, The Asian Age, Feb. 1994
Navtej Johar, a maverick Bharatanatyam dancer who threw everyone
in a light hearted spin with his modern dance.
Shanta Serbjeet Singh, The Hindustan Times, Oct. 1993
dance duet saw Johar and Bharadwaj work through the medium of
Bharatanatyam, internalising the form to such an extent that
the viewer knew it was there and yet it seemed to have an elusive
presence...... Also evident in the performance was the dancers'
tension with Bharatanatyam, a love-hate relationship of sorts,
that was somehow implicit in the very title Frenemies. ........
at [one] point it became so clear that the devadasi can never
be extricated from the dance form, even when the dancer (Johar)
is wearing a sleeveless white cotton dress cut a couple of inches
above the knees with his grey hair, beard and moustache in place.
The costumes were simple and highly effective......Also Bharatanatyam,
that initially came across as being elusive, had actually maintained
a constant presence in a multitude of ways
Sheshadri, Dancer-Choreographer-Researcher, Singapore
When it comes to building bridges between East and West the
world could use a few more Navtej Johars . . . It was more than
an culturally enlightening evening, it proved to be an artistically
satisfying as well. Johar proved gifted at both pure dance and
the expressive "story dance." . . He literally filled
the room with the presence of the two lovers, depicting Rama’s
tender care with especially expressive and minute facial movements
of the eyes and nose, all a quiver with a languid and longing
Rudnici, The Ann Arbor News, 1986
Navtej’s images are imaginatively conceived and admirably
Chandigarh Tribune, 1982