“Our philosophy gives importance to classical dance” – The New Indian Express

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Express press service

HYDERABAD: Padma Shri Shovana Narayan’s name is synonymous with Kathak. But the dance exponent added another feather to her hat, she wrote the book Kathak Lok: Temples Traditions and History with Geetika Kalha. The book is the result of 7,000 km of travel across northern India and five years of tireless fieldwork, investigation and research.

The mission was to understand the existence of Kathak villages and what Kathak and “Kathak Lok” represented. The authors unearthed little-known facts about the pre-Christian era roots of kathak, shattering many popular perceptions of Mughal origins of kathak or the belief that kathak is the dance of courtesans. CE speaks with Dean Kathak about the book, his love for classical dance and his connection to Pandit Birju Maharaj.

What was the inspiration behind writing the book Kathak Lok: Temples Traditions and History?
The journey started in 2003 when a reporter after my performance at Bodh Gaya Festival asked me if I would visit Kathak village. The ears of my musicians and myself, strained by the existence of Kathak villages, were new to us and to many members of the classical dance community. Once we started the journey of discovery, it was only natural that we wanted to share it with everyone.

You have written many books especially on the performing arts, what motivates you?
I like to share all my knowledge. Today, when any of us do research, we search the archives for material, information that several rishis, scholars, writers and others have shared with us. These are valuable documents of knowledge and experience.

You are India’s first ever professional dancer who for a long time combined a full-fledged career as a senior civil servant in the Indian government, before retiring in 2010. How did you balance the two?
When you are passionate, dedicated and committed to something, time management becomes a natural corollary. There is also no stress factor because you are doing or are doing something you love.

Tell us about your connection to your Guru Pandit Birju Maharaj.

I became a disciple of Birju Maharaj ji in 1964, when he had yet to emerge on the scene as one of the greatest gurus, artists and legend in the field of performing arts. It was an enriching experience where one became imbued with the sense of aesthetics in the dance, in the movements, in the emotion, in the presentation, where one learned the vast extent of how to let sinking creativity and structuring it into a beautiful piece of rhythmic pattern or abhinaya; how to approach choreography et al.

You starred in the movie Aavartan a few years ago. Did you enjoy playing?

It was a wonderful experience and Durba Sahay was a wonderful director. Together, she and her assistant, Abhijeet, were able to get the best out of each actor.

You managed to merge dance forms like flamenco and ballet with kathak. How was the experience?

Since 1980-81 I have done ‘collaborative’ work with Spanish flamenco, Western classical ballet and tap dancers, as well as Western classical musicians and Western classical music. Each of us was true to our respective genre of music or dance, but we came together to create a beautiful, harmonious image and expression. Each of us won with these collaborative works because we found so much commonality in the movements and the rhythmic beats and patterns and made with a different accent, the outer vibe generated was so individual to each art form. The language and the difference of cultures and styles posed no barriers because ultimately each was linked to the universality of expressions.

What social causes are close to your heart?

I tried several social themes which were very ahead of time such as the environment in 1982, the reinterpretation of mythological legends in contemporary terms since 1983, on the questions of women and children whether it be feticide or incest or even on human rights and abstractions. fields of soundscape and lightscape since the early 1980s.

In your opinion, where is India in terms of promoting classical dance?

Our philosophy gives importance to classical dance. See our deities who have been imbued and worshiped as entertainers – especially as classical entertainers. Shortly after independence, several government measures were taken and are being taken to preserve, nurture and make known our rich classical and traditional heritage, whether through the support of artists, through subsidies or through the organization of festivals.

Who is your favorite dancer?

All dancers have something unique about them that makes or made them who they are/were. We all remember and I bow to their art and artistry.

What advice would you give to young people who wish to pursue a career in traditional dance?

I’ve always said and I’m still saying that like in all fields, the world of classical dance requires “sadhna”, commitment and perspiration. Success cannot and should never be expected overnight because this term is so elusive. What matters is your deep faith, your honesty and your dedication to dance. There are no shortcuts in life or in dancing. Inner joy and peace is what matters and that’s what classical performing arts give us – which is life’s most precious gift!

HYDERABAD: Padma Shri Shovana Narayan’s name is synonymous with Kathak. But the dance exponent added another feather to her hat, she wrote the book Kathak Lok: Temples Traditions and History with Geetika Kalha. The book is the result of 7,000 km of travel across northern India and five years of tireless fieldwork, investigation and research. The mission was to understand the existence of Kathak villages and what Kathak and “Kathak Lok” represented. The authors unearthed little-known facts about the pre-Christian era roots of kathak, shattering many popular perceptions of Mughal origins of kathak or the belief that kathak is the dance of courtesans. CE speaks with Dean Kathak about the book, his love for classical dance and his connection to Pandit Birju Maharaj. What was the inspiration behind writing the book Kathak Lok: Temples Traditions and History? The journey started in 2003 when a reporter after my performance at Bodh Gaya Festival asked me if I would visit Kathak village. The ears of my musicians and myself, strained by the existence of Kathak villages, were new to us and to many members of the classical dance community. Once we started the journey of discovery, it was only natural that we wanted to share it with everyone. You have written many books especially on the performing arts, what motivates you? I like to share all my knowledge. Today, when any of us do research, we search the archives for material, information that several rishis, scholars, writers and others have shared with us. These are valuable documents of knowledge and experience. You are India’s first ever professional dancer who for a long time combined a full-fledged career as a senior civil servant in the Indian government, before retiring in 2010. How did you balance the two? When you are passionate, dedicated and committed to something, time management becomes a natural corollary. There is also no stress factor because you are doing or are doing something you love. Tell us about your connection to your Guru Pandit Birju Maharaj. I became a disciple of Birju Maharaj ji in 1964, when he had yet to emerge on the scene as one of the greatest gurus, artists and legend in the field of performing arts. It was an enriching experience where one became imbued with the sense of aesthetics in the dance, in the movements, in the emotion, in the presentation, where one learned the vast extent of how to let sinking creativity and structuring it into a beautiful piece of rhythmic pattern or abhinaya; how to approach choreography et al. You starred in the movie Aavartan a few years ago. Did you enjoy playing? It was a wonderful experience and Durba Sahay was a wonderful director. Together, she and her assistant, Abhijeet, were able to get the best out of each actor. You managed to merge dance forms like flamenco and ballet with kathak. How was the experience? Since 1980-81 I have done ‘collaborative’ work with Spanish flamenco, Western classical ballet and tap dancers, as well as Western classical musicians and Western classical music. Each of us was true to our respective genre of music or dance, but we came together to create a beautiful, harmonious image and expression. Each of us won with these collaborative works because we found so much commonality in the movements and the rhythmic beats and patterns and made with a different accent, the outer vibe generated was so individual to each art form. The language and the difference of cultures and styles posed no barriers because ultimately each was linked to the universality of expressions. What social causes are close to your heart? I tried several social themes which were very ahead of time such as the environment in 1982, the reinterpretation of mythological legends in contemporary terms since 1983, on the questions of women and children whether it be feticide or incest or even on human rights and abstractions. fields of soundscape and lightscape since the early 1980s. In your opinion, where is India in terms of promoting classical dance? Our philosophy gives importance to classical dance. See our deities who have been imbued and worshiped as entertainers – especially as classical entertainers. Shortly after independence, several government measures were taken and are being taken to preserve, nurture and make known our rich classical and traditional heritage, whether through the support of artists, through subsidies or through the organization of festivals. Who is your favorite dancer? All dancers have something unique about them that makes or made them who they are/were. We all remember and I bow to their art and artistry. What advice would you give to young people who wish to pursue a career in traditional dance? I’ve always said and I’m still saying that like in all fields, the world of classical dance requires “sadhna”, commitment and perspiration. Success cannot and should never be expected overnight because this term is so elusive. What matters is your deep faith, your honesty and your dedication to dance. There are no shortcuts in life or in dancing. Inner joy and peace is what matters and that’s what classical performing arts give us – which is life’s most precious gift!

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