Kathak DECODED - All You Need To Know About Indian Classical Dance | Swati Sinha on ACP 28 | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Kathak DECODED - All You Need To Know About Indian Classical Dance | Swati Sinha on ACP 28".

1970-01-01T06:58:38.000Z

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Introduction

Intro (00:00)

I would explain Kathak as a dance form that can be understood very easily by audiences of all age, of all cultures. All the classical dances, they do require a lot of practice and a lot of stamina. They do demand. See for us it is all Ardha Nareshwar. It is Shiva and Parvati together in one body. Now we have this very famous Ganesh Paran. The following is a conversation with Swati Sinha. She is an extremely accomplished exponent of Kathak dance. Subscribe now and enjoy the conversation. Swati Sinha Ji, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for having me here. I am very interested in Indian culture. I have a basic rudimentary understanding of Indian classical music. Not so much of dance and you are one of the eminent exponents of Kathak. So I hope to learn about this dance form from you today. So we have so many dance forms in India. Some are classified as folk, some as classical. And one of the preeminent dance forms is Kathak. So could you give a very basic lay person's introduction to Kathak? What is Kathak? What is the origin? What is it about? Sure, I will try my best. See, how I understand Kathak is a dance form that is very easy to understand from an audience's point of view. Because the expression aspect of it and not only the expression aspect but the technical details such as the hand gestures and all are very natural. And what we call in Hindi, sahed. That is very easy to understand. And therefore, a Kathak dancer is able to communicate to the audience very easily. Especially the audience that we have from the North Indian belt. The language that we use is mostly Hindi, Brij Bhasa. Of course, Sanskrit is the prime language that we use. Then we have Avadi and other dialects of Hindi which again becomes quite easy for people to understand and connect to. So this is the prime quality of Kathak that I would say. And even when we come to the ahare or the costume and the get up that we talk about, it is very very natural. The makeup, the jewelry that we use, the costume that is mostly since I belong to the Jaipur style of Kathak, we use a lot of lehenga choli and all.


Origins And Fundamentals Of Kathak Dance

Gender and Indian Classical Dance (02:45)

Which is the normal dress of women in Rajasthan still and the anarkali kurtas and all which people identify with very easily. So I would explain Kathak as a dance form that can be understood very very easily by audiences of all ages, of all cultures. I see. And is it a female dance form or a male dance form or both? Of course both. In fact, this is a speciality of Indian classical dances that it is gender neutral. I see. So whether it is Bharat Natya more Kathak, you cannot say that it is a male dance form or a female dance form. But we have the male energy aspect and the female energy aspect that is there. So see for us it is all Ardha Nareshwar. It is Shiva and Parvati together in one body. So we have a male dancer showing a goongat ke gat and he can look very very expressive and we can have a female dancer portraying the character of Kans. I see. So that is the beauty of Indian classical dances. We don't talk about gender in that sense that this is a male dance and this is a female dance. It is about energy.


Kathak Distinguishing Features (04:02)

It is about the energy. I see. And what sets Kathak apart from let's say Odissi or Kuchipudi or other dance forms? What is it? What is distinctive about Kathak? Of course, as I said earlier, it is understood very easily because of the language that is used, the gestures that are used and also rhythmically speaking, Kathak is one dance form that establishes, has the quality of establishing a time cycle as a separate part of dance, which is called the nritta aspect or the technical aspect. So when you watch all other classical dances, whether it is Odissi or Bharat Natyam, you will see the element of accompanying music always there or the vocals always accompany. But in case of Kathak, we have this time cycle of say it is a 16 beat time cycle. And then in Kathak dance, it has the ability to explore that 16 beat time cycle through numerous permutations and combinations of rhythm. So in an entire performance, you can say we can dance to a time cycle of say for say 40 minutes or 50 minutes if we have a one hour performance. So that really sets it apart. And since there is no meaning behind it, there is this sense of abandon, of joy that is there. So it is very easy again for the audience to understand that rhythm, relate to it, connect to it. And most importantly, we use this dear Mike a lot and we talk to the audience directly. So you do? Yes. I see. Could you elaborate about the time cycle? Are you talking about a Thala? Yes, I'm talking about the Thala. So what is a Thala? Could you explain to the audience? Thala is basically a fixed set of number of beats and that makes it a time cycle since it is repeated again and again and again. And in Kathak what happened is that since it is so deeply influenced by percussion and the most ancient percussion instrument that we have is pakhaavaj. And then of course, the ever popular Thabla. Of course. It took over everything. So we borrow immensely from pakhaavaj and Thabla. And therefore, we took the rhythmic patterns from them and the Kathak dancers, our forefathers, they added their ideas to it. And so we create small, small rhythmic patterns that might last, the longest might last up to one and a half minutes or two minutes.


The original syllable pattern (06:42)

Okay. And so there are various permutations and combinations happening with the numbers. Say 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2. So far even for a layman, he can enjoy the rhythm even if he doesn't understand the syllables as such. Indeed. He understands the rhythm pattern that is behind it, the counting that is behind it. So in Tal, we explore these small, small rhythmic patterns and we have different names for them such as say a small rhythmic pattern called tukura. Okay. Now tukura is a Hindi word. A piece. We all identify with it. It's a small piece. Then we have a little bigger piece called toda. Okay. Then getting inspired directly from the pakavaj, we have parana. Now we have this very famous Ganesh parana. So here you see we have this mantra. Gan, Gan, Ganapati, Gajemukha, Mangal. And so terms such as these which are very, very easily identifiable. Yes. And therefore, they connect with the audience that comes on very, very quickly. We don't have to explain the story behind it. And also we have this very interesting aspect of improvisation that we do on stage. And a Kathak Dansarik is capable of improvising for almost 10 to 15 minutes with the tabla wala. Free flow. Free flowing. Not that it is absent in other dance forms, but they mostly do it in terms of an expression piece. But Kathak has the added advantage of exploring rhythm on the spot. And of course, the expressional piece, of course, the what you call the improvisational aspect, as we call in the technical language, Sanchari bhav is always there. Okay. That is there in all the dances. But this rhythmic improvisation is very, very interesting. There is this often this friendly banter between the tabla wala and the dancer, which is called the jugal mandi. The jugal mandi. It exists in dance as well. Yes. So that that is like magic works. It's banter, isn't it? Yes. So all these things which make it a very lively dance form, very easy to connect to.


The role of the feet (09:37)

And one can enjoy this dance form even without having a context of the Indian culture as such. And therefore, even the Western audience, they enjoy it thoroughly. So one thing as a layperson that I've observed is that Kathak for me appears to be a much more vigorous, physically vigorous and demanding dance form than the other dances, for instance. And there's a very strong emphasis on feet movements, right? The feet that tap out the patterns. Yes. Well, being a dancer myself and having worked with a lot of dancers of other genres, such as Bharat Natyam and Odyssey and Kuchipudi and Kathakali. I wouldn't say that it is more vigorous than others or requires more stamina. Each of the dance forms, they require a lot of stamina. It's just that it is being used differently. In Bharat Natyam, there are a lot of jumps and the first posture itself, that puts a lot of strain on the body. In Odyssey, there is the use of the torso. Dribhanga poses. Dribhanga poses, which are very difficult to achieve. I see. It looks effortless and graceful. It looks effortless, yes, because you've watched very good dancers, I'm sure. So it looks effortless. But no, this is a lot of effort. In Kathak, it is more visible probably because of the fast footwork that we do, the sound of the feet that makes it more if it is audible, we tend to think that yes, there's a lot of hard work going on. It is audible. Whatever I've seen, it's been audible. Yes, yes. And the spins, of course, which require a lot of balance and a lot of practice. But I truly believe that all the classical dancers, they do require a lot of practice and a lot of stamina. They do demand.


How she became a Kathak Dancer (11:42)

It's just put differently in the different dancers. Right. So what made you become a Kathak dancer? I would say my mother. What's the story? So the story is a very simple one. I used to dance in front of the TV all the time, whatever song there was. As a kid? As a kid, I must have been around four, five years old. And also my mother had that inherent desire when she was a kid to learn dance. So she thought that, OK, I couldn't do it. Let's just see if she's so interested in moving around, then let's put her in a dance class. And fortunately for me, this is just his plan, I would say, that the institute that I later went to, Kathakendra, was just across the road. I see. So we used to live in this area called Mandi House. Since my father was in the government service, so we had that government accommodation there. And Kathakendra and NSD were both there in the same building called the Bhavalpur House, a very popular area in Delhi. And so my mother took me there, they had an audition. And again, I believe in his plans, I was put into my Guru Ji's class directly. So right from my first day of training, I've been under my Guru, Pandit Rajendra Gangani Ji. I see. And I have to say, I was very, very fortunate. I see. So what is the training like? Training initially for me, since it started off as a hobby, it was like three times a week class where we used to go. And I found it very, very interesting. I was always looking forward to those three days. I see. And that continued for some time till... So basically, it's that as a child, I never used to practice. I didn't have that thing inside me that I should practice at home. I just used to like dancing. I used to like going to the class. And most importantly, I liked learning from Guru Ji. That was there. So that was the seed that he had sown, that whatever you do, you're going to come to the class. Okay. Day after tomorrow, you're not going to take it off. You're going to come to the class. He made sure. That was his teaching style. So gradually, my interest in it grew. And I realized that it is something that I'm good at.


NonRas training itself (14:24)

And I was getting a lot of attention from my seniors, from other people in the Kendra. And I believe that, okay, probably this is the way for me. And at a certain point in my life, probably I was in 9th or 10th standard, I made up my mind that I want to do this. Then started the rigorous training or riyas, as we call. Which meant that less time was being spent learning and more time was being spent practicing what was learned.


Letters part I (15:03)

So to have finesse in it and to be able to grasp what you call the leh. Leh is basically, if I put it in a technical way, then leh is when the beads are equally distributed. So there is this constant tempo. And getting used to that constant tempo, understanding leh is a very, very difficult task. And I realized that I got a grasp over it only after 10 to 11 years of training. Wow, I see.


The start of struggling cry flu parts (15:42)

So there was a good amount of time that I spent with dance so that I grew with dance and my dance grew with me. And then I realized the importance of riyas, which I was not understanding till that point of time.


Rya (16:01)

That is your own practice, the amount of time you have to give to that riyas and you have to become your own teacher. You have to become your own critic. At that point, you don't look into the mirror and say, wow, I dance so beautifully. You say, hey, your movement didn't open enough or it didn't go high enough. Are you looking at what you're doing? Are you being attentive or are you listening to the time cycle that is being played? Are you in time or not? So that is when you start becoming your own teacher besides your guru being there to correct your flaws. So that is rigorous riyas that one is supposed to do after a certain point of time in learning.


When she turned into a practitioner (16:50)

So what's the transition like from being a student to being an actual practitioner on stage? I mean, is there an initiation ceremony or something? Like we have Arangitram and Bharat Natyam, that sort of thing? Traditionally speaking, I haven't heard of anything like that in case of Kathak. Nowadays, people are doing Rangmanch Praveish sort of a thing. But maybe I believe that is something that is being inspired by the Arangitram concept of Bharat Natyam.


The first performance (17:24)

But in Kathak, we had no such concept that I know of. So when do you feel you transitioned from being a student to being an actual practitioner? For me, there was no line. It was very, very blurred. See, I started off as a seven-year-old. And at some point of time, I think I was in my third year of training that Guruji put me on stage for the first time.


Foundation and Form (17:53)

And that is when the journey with the stage started. And gradually, we started performing more and more. As I spent more years, we started performing more and more. Kathakendra used to have this annual festival called Chhatrotsev at that time. Now it is not there, but we used to have Chhatrotsev. So we were all put on the stage for that Chhatrotsev. And then Guruji was performing here and there. He used to take me along with him and many other students who were very interested in the form. And we used to perform. So I really cannot point out when that transition happened. For me, it was very, very gradual and very natural. That, okay, this is the way forward. So how is it when you transition from practicing in a room to being on stage? How is it the first time you go on stage and there are people watching? Is that intimidating? Is it overwhelming or is it just natural? Because most people, I mean, there's this entire community of how to do public speaking. And most people are terrified of public speaking, being on a stage in front of an audience. So how was it for you? For me, the first few years, I would say, the first five, six years, when I started performing, I felt nothing. I was very, very confident on stage. I felt I was made for the stage. But only as far as dance was concerned, if you would leave me for some sort of debate or an oratory experience, no, no, no. Absolutely not. When I was dancing, maybe I was not looking at the audience or maybe I was. I don't remember, but I was very comfortable on stage. The nervousness only started coming in when I started understanding the nuances of the form. When I could understand that, OK, this is a mistake, this shouldn't happen. You have to smile and you have to connect with the audience. When those sorts of realizations started coming in, then I was like nervous going on the stage. And even today, before going on the stage, there are butterflies in my stomach. I said, so that came later. That came much later. Initially, I was a stage person. As a child, nothing mattered because you're so free. All you want to do is dance and be appreciated. People clapping, very happy. You don't know what has gone wrong, what might go wrong.


The Artistic Interactivity And Audience Engagement

Stage Presence (20:30)

As a child, you don't. You don't care about those things. You're a free soul. So that's how it was. So when you perform on stage, do you sense the audience or are you totally withdrawn inside and focusing on yourself? For me, that connection is very, very important. You have to sense the audience. In fact, you have to be so present in the moment you cannot afford to get lost in yourself. You have to be present in the moment and intelligent enough to gauge what the audience is asking for. See, you're a performer at that point of time. You're there for the audience. For myself, I perform every day. Every riyaz is a performance for me. But when you're on the stage, you're there for the audience and you're there for your accompanist as well. So you take care of a lot of things, the space around you. Am I using the space properly or am I just standing in one place? That awareness has to be there. My audience is trained in the dance form. Or do I have an untrained audience in front of me? You have to gauge through the expression of their eyes, through their appreciation that, okay, I'm going the right way or do I need to change a bit? And if I choose to do a particular rhythmic pattern, am I accompanist comfortable with it or not? Or should I just do something simple or can I do something more complicated depending on who I have for my support that day?


Being lost in oneself (22:10)

And if Guruji happens to be there on stage to help accompany you, you're like, "Free, okay, everything is taken care of." I can do whatever I want to do. So it depends on the situation. And see, as far as being lost in oneself is concerned, even Bharat Muni in the Natish Astra says that you don't have to forget yourself. You are there all the time. So your presence of mind and everything has to be there to be able to do justice to the person. At that point of time, your aim is that the audience is able to get the rasa out of it. What is rasa? Rasa is the experience that the audience goes through. The audience? The audience goes through, not you. Okay, that's what you want to make them feel and experience. Yes, you have to take them on that journey. You're responsible for that journey. So is that a predefined thing? Today I'm going to make this rasa be felt. No, probably not. It's something very intuitive and very difficult to explain and understand. It just happens. Sometimes, as we say in our daily life, everything falls into place. At certain moments, everything falls into place. And then that perfect moment is created. Similarly, on stage. So when you're in the right mood, you're in the right frame of mind, your accompanist are on the same track as you. They understand you well. You understand your accompanist well. You have connected well with the audience. Your choice of your things that you are dancing is on the right track. Everything falls together. And then you're able to go on a journey together, all of everybody as one entity.


Nattir Shastra and Dance (24:10)

And that is the point when the audience feels no one with you and they are able to experience that rasa. So in a single performance, do you make them experience multiple rasa? Is there a journey of various rasas? Yes, it can be. So it's like a story. You're telling a story. Yeah, it is a story. All Indian classical dance forms have come out of the storytelling technique only. We all tell stories. So you're essentially actors and acting out certain events in the form of dance. It's just that our way of doing it. I see. And you spoke about the nathir shastra. So what is the nathir shastra and what does it have to do with dance? Nathir shastra is our Bible. You can say our grammar book. And many people get confused with the word nathir, equating it with nathak. But nathir is actually ancient Sanskrit drama, which had elements of music and dance and acting into it. Everything went together. It was only that after a period of time, there was, as you call it, division of labour. Then we had the musicians, the vocal music, instrumental music, then dance as a separate genre and theatre as a separate genre. But initially everything started together. So there is this huge book that talks about all the aspects of ancient Sanskrit drama, including how playhouse should be constructed, what different forms of stage you can have, where the green room should be, what are the qualities of an actor, what are the qualities of a director, what are the qualities of a dancer. And to the greatest detail, there is no other book like the nathir shastra, which can talk about the ancient Sanskrit theatre again, in that way, that detail, that if you are showing a particular character or trying to portray a particular rasa, there is a certain make-up colour that you should use. It goes to that extent. So very, very detailed book.


Dance is Interactive (26:25)

And now we have, of course, come very far from it. But still we find, when we read the nathir shastra, we find many things that we can connect to. We can connect the dots and say that, okay, this is where we came from. So even thousands of years ago, we had directors, we had green rooms, we had make-up. Oh, they were much more professional than what we are today. I see. Fascinating. Yes. And there was this, the whole system of doing puja on the stage. Each part of the stage was first paid a business to, and then only the play started. And then also it had a certain pattern. The play should have a certain pattern. And that should be followed by whoever is writing that play. Oh, I see. So you said that Kathak is very interactive. You interact with the audience. Is this a characteristic of all Indian dancers? I think in Manipuri, there is not much interaction between the performer and the audience. So is it something that's specific to Kathak? Yes, it is. I would say that. Because see, what happens is, once I would use the word item in absence of a better word for it, once a particular saint Bharat Natyam, there is a varanam or a shabdam that they are dancing. Once they start dancing, as I said, the journey, everybody undertakes together only. The dancer is there, the audience is there, the accompanist are there, everybody is involved. But, and the dancer does look at the audience, does try to gauge their reaction, whether they are liking it or not, or should I improvise more, or this is enough, that sort of thing is there. But in Kathak, you can directly talk to the audience. So you actually speak? Yes, we actually speak. Do you speak or do you sing? We speak. It is called, when we do it formally, in the sense of reciting the rhythmic pattern, it is called padant. We do it so that the audience understands, the accompanist, the tabla-wala understands what you are going to do next.


Communication with Audience (28:45)

Many times we dance without rehearsals. I see. In Brahm too. And the other way of communication is, we have this concept of 'farmayish'. When we have a learned audience in front of us, they often say, you know about the tal system. So, is tal me ek padant kar ke de khaadhe jai? Why don't you do this? So, that sort of interaction is also there. There is a 'farmayish' from the audience, a request from the audience, or one can say an order from the audience. So, that is what I am supposed to do next. And also the interaction is, when we try to explain, in case we have an audience who is not so well-versed with our dance form, we often explain the thought behind an intraform or the rhythmic pattern. And that is the time when we look directly into the rise. Then we also have this aspect of bhav, the 'expressional peace', where sometimes very senior dancers do it. We talk about what we are thinking and we improvise on that word, a particular word or a particular sentence of the poetry that you have taken. And sometimes you just stop in between, you talk to the audience that, see this is what I feel and then you go ahead. With the singer you say that, okay, you sing the line and then you do it. So, it is interactive to that extent. If you have a non-Indian audience, how do you interact with them?


Non-Indian Audience (30:34)

The non-Indian audience has to be, we need to be very careful about explaining each and everything that you do, because they don't have the context of our culture. So, do you explain in English? Yes, we do explain in English. And if we have an audience where the audience is not comfortable with the language, suppose whenever we go to places like Germany and Switzerland, they prefer to hear the things in their own language. They have an affinity for their language, which is an excellent thing. It is a good thing. It is a very good thing. And so, we often take care that there is somebody who can translate. But does it slow down the performance? No, it doesn't. Because see, what is slowing down? If you mean the pace of what you are dancing, then yes.


Cultural Influence And Symbolism In Kathak

Facial Expressions (31:26)

But then it is all about how you are able to make the audience understand you or how you are able to reach the audience. That is the main aim of the performance. So, when you are able to do that, then you don't really care about what is happening to the audience. You don't really care about what is happening to the pace. So, as long as you are able to connect and portray what you really want to do properly, then the battle is won. Right. And there is also this non-verbal communication of the facial expressions and all that. So, is it something that is once again specific to Kathak that you have very expressive faces? I think Kuchy, the dance form from Kerala. Kathakali. So, that is all about expressions. But there are other dance forms like Manipuri where you have the same expression throughout. So, is this again something that is kind of specific to Kathak, the facial expressions? The facial expressions I think is there in all the dance forms except for Manipuri as you said. You understood it well. They have that veil in front of their faces and mostly whatever they express is through their very beautiful hand movements and their leg movements, which are mostly on their toes and everything and their beautiful costumes.


Themes and Stories (32:46)

For Kathakali, of course, it is much more theatrical. It is actually a dance drama. Kathakali is a dance drama. So, they of course, their expressions are very vivid and very broad as you would say, you know, huge expressions. And they use those lovely colors depending on the character that they are portraying. So, for Kathak, Bharatnatyam or ODC, of course, that element is there, the dramatic element is there but not as much as Kathakali. And what are the themes and the stories that you express in the performances? Traditionally speaking, it is mostly about Krishna. Krishna? Yes. And we believe, I don't know much about it because the research aspect of it is still undergoing, that Kathak is very deeply influenced by the Ras Leela. Gita Govind?


Authority of Gita Govinda, the earliest dance tradition (33:56)

Gita Govind is, ODC is very deeply influenced by Gita Govind. So, Kathak is Ras Leela? Kathak is influenced by the Ras Leela that is still none in Vrindavan. If you go there during what you call Sharat Purnima, they have Ras Leela happening there. So, what happens in the Ras Leela? Which place is it played? Ras Leela, the traditional way that it is done is that Krishna and Radha are in the center and the gopis, they form a circle around. And the common things that we find with Ras Leela are many of the bowls that we dance to, the syllables, the traditional syllables. Many of the syllables we are able to make out in the Ras Leela. And of course, the stories of Krishna, we portray them in two different ways. One is through an Abhinay item that is a piece of poetry. It can be Surdas, it can be Mirabai, it can be Radhas, it can be any of the earlier poets. This I am talking about a traditional recital. And also in the Jaipur style of Kathak, we have this what you call Kavitha. You can say it comes from the word Kavitha which means poem. So, we have this fast paced, rhythmic poetry. If there is time, I will just give an example. So, this very short poem, Shishimukut bhansi mukha bhaje, cha palen nain kundal ejhel ke mo remukhut pee, tam bari so hei, mande mande maduri, mose ke madhu ek, madhu do, madhutin, madhut a, madhut ha, madhut hai, madhut saat, madhut aat, madhut na. So, in this particular poetry, we are basically depicting the Ahare of Krishna. But you see the speed, Shishimukut bhansi mukha bhaje. So, you have to maintain that speed, the rhythmic pattern as well as the expressions at the same time. So, this was the very basic Kavitha that we generally teach to beginners. But so, this is how we start with teaching Kavithas. Then we have big, big Kavithas where we explore the story of Kaliya Daman or Gover Dhan Leela and so on and so forth. So, Krishna is explored in these two different ways in Kathak. And so, you explore, apart from Krishna, are there other themes as well? Of course, see today we are talking about social issues also. We are talking about environmental issues through dance. So, dance is a vocabulary, it's a language that you have with you. How you use it is up to you. You can use it according to your interests.


Etymology of Kathak (37:01)

Like once I did a piece where I was talking about women empowerment through dance, everything through the language of dance. I didn't have to dilute my language at all, my vocabulary at all. I didn't have to do those aerial jumps or I didn't have to borrow any sort of vocabulary from contemporary dancing or anything of that sort. My vocabulary is very, very rich. The Indian classical dance vocabulary is very rich. When I say my, it means the entire arena of Indian classical dance. Our vocabulary is so rich, we don't have to use any sort of slang. So, it's just that how you, are you mature enough to use it in the proper way? Then you don't feel the need to add anything to it. So, if my command over English is not good, if my command over Hindi is not good, what do I do? I mix two, three languages together and I speak and I say that, okay, this is a new language. No, no, no, that doesn't work that way. If my training is strong enough, I have given it enough thought, I have given it enough hard work, I have developed it, I have strengthened it. Then I don't need to use any other language. You can express all ideas. Yes, all ideas, contemporary, traditional, whatever you want to talk about, you can do it. I've heard it said that Spanish flamenco is very similar to Kathak. So, what do you think about that? Yes, we believe that it was the, some of the nomadic tribes from Rajasthan who actually traveled to the Annolution region. And they settled there. And in fact, since my Guruji is a Rajasthani, he was saying that when he went to Spain to work with flamenco artists, there were many, many words in their vocabulary, in their normal language that was very typically Rajasthani. Yes, yes.


Flamenco (39:26)

So, yes, we see a piece of history that we share. And they also follow a time cycle of 8 beats and 12 beats. Okay. Of course, with Kathak, since the transform developed here, we have many, many time cycles that we follow. But for them, they stick to 8 and 12 beats and they have the concept of what we call sum that is coming on to the first beat. In their case, it is the last beat, the 8th beat. For us, it is the first beat. So, it is sah, it is ma. So, you can say that. So, they have that concept of stopping on the 8th beat and we stop on the first beat, come back to the first beat. So, those, I guess it's just a matter of time. They developed, they had their own journey. Yes. And while this thing was developing here and there were a good amount of people who were practicing here, there were small group of families who were practicing there. So, naturally that difference was there and the influence of the Spanish culture. So, yes, there are a lot of similarities and I could feel those similarities when I had the opportunity to work with my co-artist. Yes. So, and rhythm, I mean, they are masters of rhythm, you doubt about that. So, it's always fun working with them. So, there was this, there is this flamenco dancer. His name is Hernan Cortes or something. I don't remember the name. But it's said that he wears these special boots while dancing and in a three hour performance, those boots got totally worn out. So, I'm sure it's really, I mean, it's very similar to Kathak with the emphasis on the feet movements, tapping and all that. I'm sure it's quite stressful and a lot of strain on the feet and ankles as well. Yes, on the knee and ankle. Yes. So, is that something you also have to take care of?


Kathak shoes (41:21)

Yes. Dancers have to be very, very careful about it because we, one thing that you can, as a dancer, one can do is be very, very good with the technique of how you stomp your foot on the floor. That is generally taught by the gurus. If your guru is, if you have a good guru, then he can transfer that knowledge to you. Yes. There's a certain technique of stomping on the floor, not with your entire weight on your poor little ankle, but rather that what you call the spring action. So that, you know, the weight, it just comes back. It doesn't hurt the knee so much. But today we have to be careful with the type of floor that we are dancing on, toning and strengthening of muscles through other techniques such as yoga, pilates or other training formats that we have, whatever is convenient to you. And things like that need to be taken care of. Otherwise, it does injure us, our dance form injures us many times. Have you experienced that? Oh, lots of times. Because when we were learning, no, we didn't have this concept of warming up, cooling down. We are talking about this now. Yes. In India. This importance of warming up, then doing the stretches after you are through with your workout. If you think of it as a workout. Then you need to supposed to do the cool down also. With us, it was like run to the dance class, tie the gungroos, do the class, take off the gungroos, go back home, do your homework. That is how it was. We were not taught these techniques. But now I take care that I tell my students that, listen, you're supposed to do this if you want to dance long enough. What's the importance of the gungroos? I don't think any other dance form has gungroos, right? No, no. All the dance forms have gungroos except for Manipuri. Everybody wears gungroos. But in Kathak, we wear a good amount, say, anything from 100 to 201 feet. I see. Bells. Yeah, bells. I see. And they can weigh anything from 1 to 2 kgs. Wow. On each foot. On both the feet. So you have to dance with that weight along your feet because one purpose that they serve is since it's a footwork-based dance, it is very important for the audience to be able to hear each and every rhythmic pattern that you are presenting. So the sound of the gungroos becomes very, very important. And yes, they have the musical element to it. So rather than hearing pat, pat, pat, you hear chun, chun, chun. That's of course more musical. And we have, in Kathak, we have great reverence for the gungroos. In fact, the earlier gurus were so strict, you couldn't go out of the class with your gungroos on. Only you have to wear your gungroos while you're in the classroom only. And during the time of Basant Panchami, that is the Saraswati Puja, we take our gungroos to our guru for a special puja. And after that, that day we don't touch our gungroos. The next day we wear our gungroos and dance. And Kathak dancers are more strict about how they wear their gungroos, how they keep their gungroos. Whereas I will say that in other dance forms, it probably is an accompaniment for us. It is our first instrument. It's the first instrument. I see. We speak through that. I see. Through our gungroos. So for Kathak dancers, they are very, very, very, very revered. What's the meaning of the word Kathak? From what we've learned from the books, there is this very famous adage, Kathak kahi so Kathak ke halai. The one who tells a story is a Kathak. I see. So the word Kathak is not only the name of a dance form, which is actually a later development. Kathak is a community and which belonged to certain parts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. So that community was called Kathak, who were into this profession of storytelling. And they used, they were basically nomadic people. They used to move from village to village. And from what we know from the books that they used to perform in temples and open court yards. And they received patronage from the kings.


Mughal Patronage, Folk Influence, And Dance Forms

Mughal patronage (46:27)

I see. I see. And the wealthy people from the village and probably there was this strong element of dance at that point of time, along with the speaking, the storytelling aspect. And that is how slowly and steadily the dance form developed into what we know as Kathak today. So was it originally or at some point in time a dance that was performed in temple court yards? Yes, that is what we know. That earlier it was performed in the temples only. In fact, before coming to the courts, before the Mughals came, it was strictly very, what do you call Bhakti oriented. I see. And it was only with the advent of the Mughals that this element of Sringar came into it. And the dancers started performing in courts. Okay. So it was taken out of the temple court yards and in royal courts. During the Mughal times. So that's how the Mughals shaped this dance form. Yes, yes. It is deeply influenced by their culture, their thought process. We are also taught that females entered this area of dance, of Kathak dance only during the time of the Mughals. Till then it was a male dominated area. Females were not dancing. Okay. Okay. And as we know today now, now anybody can dance and... And how old is this dance form? Do we know how old it is? No, we don't actually. We have a major piece of major chunk of history missing. We still are, there are many people who are working towards it trying to find the link of how it actually developed from the story. Developed from the storytelling form to the documented times. That is during the Mughals. We have some documentation from various foreign travelers of a dance form that looks like Kathak is very similar to Kathak.


Sculptures (48:46)

But it was not called Kathak at that point of time. So how did that transition come? There is a major chunk that is missing and people are still working on it. I see. If you go to the south, there are these dance poses that are carved on temples, sculptures that look like the dance poses of Bharat Bhatia and various other dances. In the north, we don't have so many temples left. So that's a missing piece, isn't it? Yes, probably that's a missing piece. And also one very important element here is that although it was practiced all over India, the entire Vedas were like that, the Shrut Parampara. What is that? Shrut Parampara is when you listen and you remember. So when the teachers, the gurus were teaching the disciples, they were not writing things. They were just remembering, hearing and remembering.


Lost Knowledge of classes (49:38)

So since there was no documentation happening, probably we have lost a lot of things. In fact, I'll tell you interestingly, even when my guru was learning from his guru, that is his father, they were not allowed to write things down. I see. He used to say, "Likna nahi hai, yad karo" that is how I have learned. So they used to write after they used to go back home, then whatever they could remember, they used to write. And so we have proper documentation only from this last generation. I see. I see. Till then it was just Shrut Parampara, as we say. Yeah, it's an interesting thing. I mean, in the old days, before the invasions, even the temples were centers of education and we had written documentation.


Forms of Karanas (50:33)

For instance, we know that Nalanda burned for several months. The library was there. So I think we at one point in time used to have copious documentation and then it was all distorted. Then we were forced to pass things down orally and that became a tradition. Yes, you can say that. But in case of Kathak, what happened was, I believe since they were nomads, they must not be documenting. Possibly. If it's a nomadic, if it emerges from nomads. It is not possible to move along with so much documentation behind you. So at least in this tradition, I think there was not enough documentation happening. Okay. And therefore, many things that have been passed on you see the same as I gave you the example of a Kavita, you'll find some words here and there. But even though the dancer might be from the Jaipur style of Kathak, he might use some words differently. Okay. Probably that happens. That's kind of a Chinese whisper kind of thing happening. You change a word, you understand the word that way and that is how you teach your student. So these sort of things happened with us. And as I said, yes, a piece of history is missing. We still need to connect the dots. So you said you belong to the Jaipur style. What are the different styles of Karanas? So what are the different Karanas? What are the differences? The patronage that Kathak received was in the Jaipur court and in the Lucknow court. Okay, two. Two courts. So the dancers who were in Rajasthan who received the royal patronage from the Jaipur court, they established the Jaipur Gharana. And the dancers who received patronage from the Lucknow court, not necessarily in Lucknow only, but UP, they developed what is called the Lucknow Gharana. Then again, there was, I really don't know how Banaras Gharana came into being. Okay. But then there was this Raja Chakradhar Singh in Raigar, who was very fond of dancing music, who was a very good Pakavich player himself. I see. He gave patronage to a lot of artists from Jaipur and Lucknow Gharana and later on the dancers who were settled in Raigar, they developed what today they call the Raigar Gharana. I see. So that is how basically Gharanas developed wherever you received patronage from.


Patronage vs Folk Influence (53:10)

And they all had the slightly distinct styles? Yes. Kathak of course remains Kathak, but in the Jaipur style, you can say since it was still under the patronage of Hindu rulers, Rajpurs, there was this essence of Bhakti-ras, which dominates. And also, you see the spins that we talk about and when you see the folk dancers of Rajasthan, you see Guhmer, you see Kalbelya, you see a lot of spins happening. Yes, indeed. So probably, and we all also believe that folk dancers form the roots of all classical dancers, not only Katha, but all classical dancers. So I think we have borrowed a lot from those folk dancers and therefore the concept of spins in Kathak, especially in the Jaipur style and use of footwork is, I would say, a portrayal of the Viras. Viras. That the Rajput rulers really wanted to see. That was what they were made of. Okay. So that thing is there. When we come to Lucknow, we see a lot of stress on the aesthetics. Okay. Right from the costumes to the movement technique. Is this what they call Shringar? Shringar. As you can call that Shringar. So there was the dancers worked a lot on the beauty of the wrist movements. Okay. And concepts such as Tumri and... What is Tumri? Tarana. Tumri is a genre of singing in the stani classical music, which basically is, you can call it the love songs of Radha and Krishna. I see. So they worked on those aspects. Okay. So the socio-political situation, it affects the cultural situation. Yes. So Jaipur, Gharana and Lucknow, Gharana developed that way. Now, when we are all in Delhi, everybody is in Delhi or Mumbai or Kolkata, the major cities, we do what we like to do. So now we are talking more about our individuality. And therefore, you see that that lining of the Gharana somewhere, when the dancer dances, you can make out. This is Jaipur. She has learned the Jaipur style or she has learned the Lucknow style. But you see more of the dancer, the individual personality of the dancer. I think this is something we have seen across India. There are certain royal families or houses that give patronage to a certain style of dance and then it develops in a very distinct style. We see that in the south of India, we see that in Manipur, we see the other parts of India. So is this something, I mean, after independence, the royal families were all abolished, the princely houses or whatever we call them. Has that caused a certain decline in classical dance because the patronage stopped coming? The patronage stopped coming and therefore things became very, very difficult. I see. The upholders of this tradition, all classical traditions were when we go to the south were the Devdasis. And in case of the north, there were the courtesans. They stopped receiving patronage. Their life was not complete, you know, doldrums. That is when the government stepped in. Okay. And there were some people from affluent families, some women from affluent families who could afford to establish dance schools and took some of these people under their care. They learnt from them. They sort of, a little bit of appropriation happened with the dance form. They Sanskritized it mostly so that it is palatable to the audience at that point of time. And the government supported a lot. Then there were dance schools that we had the Sangitnata Kekadami, then after independence and then various dance schools. The Sangitnata Kekadami was just an example. It is a government supported institute. Then we had Rukmini Devi in the south who established the Kalakshetra for Bharat Natyam. And then the government took over and things like that. So when royal patronage stopped, then the government took over. I see. So was it sufficient to keep the dance forms going? Not sufficient, but yes, it was urgently needed at that point of time. And at least something was happening. Something better than nothing. Something was happening. And there were some people, as I said, who could afford to establish schools by themselves. And one has to admit that they supported the dance form. Okay. So you spoke about folk dances as opposed to classical dances. In your opinion, is there any difference, real difference between folk dances and classical dances?


Defining Folk (58:46)

Or is there not? See, as I grow older or wiser, I would say, for me, I today feel dance is dance. That classification, I don't know how long we'll be able to live with that classification of folk, classical, contemporary, modern, ultra modern, whatever you want to say. But from what we have been told, folk dances are not governed by very strict rules. Whereas classical dances have a very strict vocabulary and are governed by strict rules. And we follow this aspect of having the nriththa aspect or the technical aspect that in case of kattak, that is the tal that we dance to and we have the abhinaya. That is the expression aspect. So all the classical dances follow this system of having these two aspects intact. Whereas in a folk dance, it is just a celebration of life, of joy, sometimes of sorrow too. Okay. We dance in situations of grief as well.


Commonalities And Diversity In Dance Vocabulary

Karnatic dances have a common vocabulary (01:00:08)

So that is the basic difference. But we also know for sure there is enough research to support that all classical dances have developed from the folk forms only. Right. Okay. You said that dance is a vocabulary. And you said that most of the Indian classical dances, main dance forms, they share a common vocabulary. So I'm sure they have something specific to them and unique to them as well. So when you perform with dancers who practice other dance forms or for example, foreign dancers, how do you converse with them? You have a different vocabulary. They have a different vocabulary. How do you make this work? See, as far as Indian classical, other Indian classical dancers are concerned, what is most important is that two dancers who are working together, they need to be at the same wavelength. If they are not able to put their thoughts together, then it is not going to be a fusion, but a confusion. So one thing, another thing that is very important is both the artists need to be well aware of each other's dance forms. Okay. They need to be, they don't need to be a practitioner. But if I'm working with a Bharat Natyam dancer, in the past, I should be a good audience to a Bharat Natyam performance. Okay. And as it is, since we all belong to the same culture, the Indian culture, we, it is important for one dancer or one classical dance form to be well aware of what other dance forms are trying to say and what is their way of saying it. Yes. That is very important. Once you are in that space, then it's very easy to work together, to find common grounds.


Foreign dancers (01:02:08)

And also I'd say at this point of time, Krishna comes to the rescue, always. I see. Always. I see. Because he is one common thread that runs through all the classical dances, the concept of Krishna. And when it comes to interacting with foreign dancers, what are the challenges there? With foreign dancers, you have to be, you have to explore the rhythmic aspect more. Okay. Because when we talk about ballet, suppose we talk about French or the Russian ballet, then they don't have this facial expression concept. Yes. They express through the body. Yes. Whereas we use our body to support our face. Okay. So there is this major difference there. Yes. So at this point of time, you can work a lot with a fusion of your music, because music is also a part of dance. So when we talk about dance, music is also there. We are fusing the music as well. So you can work a lot with the music and you can work a lot with the body movements. Fortunately, for Indian classical dancing, it is not just restricted to the face. We use a lot of body as well. So that is when we can work with the Western dance forms. And when we are exploring tap dancing or flamenco dancing, then of course the rhythmic aspect is there to work with. What about African dances or Eastern dances?


African Dance (01:03:46)

Is there anything in common? With the African dances, yes, the rhythm. Rythms. Very rhythmic. Very, very rhythmic. They are so good and they are so strong with their rhythm sense. Sometimes you feel that, okay, I'm lacking something. Okay. They are so good. We had this very interesting concept where it was directed by my Guruji. We went to Ethiopia and we had various dance forms that came from all over Africa. And here, I think, if I remember correctly, Kathak was there, Bharat Natyam was there, Chaw was there. And he was supposed to make a complete choreograph, a complete evening while we were there in Ethiopia for four or five days. I see. And he used their music and he used their rhythm and we all shared it, whether it was Bharat Natyam, whether it was Chaw, whether it was Kathak, we all danced together. I see. So it was a great learning experience of how this question that pops up now, that was a great experience at that point of time. So are these experiences all learning and enriching experiences, do they teach you something new every time? Of course, every time. Every time. And how about the Eastern dances like Bali, Cambodia, Japan, Korea, do they have something in common with our dance forms? Probably. I'm not so aware. I won't be able to comment on it because I'm not aware of the dance forms that they do there. My knowledge is very limited. So now you are a Guru yourself. You teach, don't you? I teach. I'm not a Guru, yeah. No real Guru will call themselves a Guru. So how is it to teach students? Is it difficult?


What the Teaching Listens (01:05:40)

I mean, what's the process? It's again a great learning experience. You learn more than you teach, actually. I see. Because here you have a body to work on and you have to develop an eye to see what works best for this person in front of me. I have to transfer my knowledge, but also make sure that his or her personality is able to enhance his or her personality, enhance her dance. So you have to create that critical eye and also in the process see that, okay, this is looking good, probably will look good on me. This is not looking good. Probably I need to rethink what I'm doing. So I think teaching is a great learning experience. You're not actually teaching, you're still learning. You're still learning. You're still learning. So, and it is for me, since I enjoy teaching, it is very satisfying to see your students grow from awkward little toddlers who just move here and there to graceful dancers in a span of six to seven years. And as I said, you're able to see so many things in a new perspective, in a new light when you teach with them being in front of you.


Ornaments Traditional Instruments (01:07:08)

And you always have the option of experimenting. And okay, when they start young, you know, okay, even if I make a mistake, I'll correct it later. But let's see how this works. So, so every day is when you teach is I learn every day. What are the musical instruments that are associated with Kathak? The most important instrument at this point of time is Tabla. And we use a lot of harmonium still, although harmonium is not a traditional Indian instrument, but we use it now. It is a part of our culture. And this very ancient instrument called Sarangi, which is there. And we still have a few pakavaj players around to accompany us. We use the flute. We use the sitar, sometimes the violin too. And then depending on when we do recordings, audio recordings for choreographic pieces, then very often we use the keyboard as well. I see. And other other instruments too, depending on the need. So, dance is something that has evolved over the centuries. How do you see Kathak or other Indian dances evolving in the future, in the 21st century? Will Indian classical dance be able to survive the 21st century? Will it change because of the changes that we are seeing? How do you see it evolving? See, change is inevitable. It's inevitable. That's going to happen. Kathak, since the past 20 years has changed, right in front of my eyes it has changed. It has. So, I feel that as a practitioner, I feel that as an audience. So, definitely that change is going to happen. And as I said, now we think more, when we talk of dancing, we want to see a lot of the dancer in the dance. Rather than we don't always think about in terms of tradition, is this true to the Jaipur Gharana? Is this true to the Laphna Ugharana? No, we are not getting into those debates anymore. So, it's now more about individuality, isn't it? It is more about the individual dancer, what he or she is thinking, what affects him or her. And what stories does he want to tell? What stories does the audience want to listen to? A watch. Right. That is again, audience is a very, very big part, plays a very big part in how dance is going to shape in the future. So, we cannot leave them behind. So, with our changing audience, with their changing tastes, with their changing likings, the art form is also going to change. The students today, when we were taught about Krishna and Radha, then we never even thought of questioning our Guru. Is this eve teasing? But students today talk about it. I see. Okay. Changing attitudes. Changing attitudes.


New Lives (01:10:22)

Yes, you can say that when there is more depth to it, that's just this concept of eve teasing. But then that culture has gone away from the homes itself. Yes. Yes. They are not eating Indian food. They are not wearing Indian attire. Yes. They are not speaking in their native language. Indeed. So, do we expect them to understand the depth that Bhagavad-Kuran is? Because we get Krishna from Bhagavad-Puran, not before that. Yes. So, but are we telling our children about these things? And when we are not telling them, when we are not educating them in this aspect at all, what are we expecting from them? Indeed. Yes. Yes. To think of it in terms of eve teasing, then there is this generation of teacher only, who is herself not very well versed with. Yes. Because she comes from that upbringing. She has that upbringing and she says, yes, you are right. You don't need to do this. Okay. So, that's how things change. So, things change. They take a different route altogether. And then today we are taught, we are told to rather accept what the other person thinks, rather than always trying to explain or trying to put your point of view forth. So, I think, yes, yes, things are going to change. And so, as I said today, if I felt the need to talk about women empowerment, so I made a choreography on it. I also felt the need to talk about Surpanaka once, to show her in a light that is different from what Walmiki Ji showed her. So, there are so many things now to think about. There is so much literature to read. There is so much awareness. There is so much influence of other cultures. So, naturally the dance form is going to change. And when the repertoire is going to change, the pedagogy is also going to change. Because that is what it leads to. And these days we have this phenomenon of this shortening attention spans. People want to see shorter pieces. So, is this also going to affect classical dance? Yes, definitely it is already there. So, those performances are shorter now? Yes, yes, very, very short. We have a rare one and a half hours performance. We have a very popular 20 minutes performance. It has even come down to 5 minutes. I see. Yes. So, you are just there. And so, what happens? You compromise on the speed, first and foremost. So, as I said, I have seen dance changing in the last 20 years as an audience. Dance is becoming speedier and speedier. It is becoming very, very fast. So, because the thought process of this younger generation is like that, we are in a lot of hurry. Yes. And so, they want to expel that energy that they have. They like the speed. And in 5 minutes, what are you going to show? I wonder, yeah. If you don't speed up the entire performance, you won't be able to dance even two rhythmic patterns. And then it is time for you to exit. Yes. But then the best way forward is to accept the change. You cannot fight what is happening around you. And it is an inevitable thing. It is going to happen. So, you always tailor the art form according to the needs of the society at that point of time. And gradually, 50 years down the line, Kathak will be very different from what it is today. Right. How easy or challenging is the life of a dancer, professional dancer? Not easy at all. How so? Please tell me.


Being A Professional Dancer And Artist Development

Being a Professional Dancer (01:14:40)

Not easy in the sense because see the monetarily, it is still very, very challenging because people still don't see it as a profession. They see it more as a hobby. I see. So, sustaining yourself and a family on dance or music or painting, any art form is not so easy. The opportunities are very less. Okay. And the number of artists is increasing every time. I see. So, again, that puts pressure on the resources and therefore everybody is not paid well. So, it is not so very easy. But there is a trend that I see in the West, especially in Europe. I see that there are many artists who are into other day jobs during the day and by evening they practice their beloved art forms. Must be really hard, right? It is. It is. It is more hard for them because in India, we still have the support of families. We have to understand how it works here. For me, I was not earning till I was 24 years old and I had no such pressure from my parents. So, I could sustain, I could survive, I could pull that time through. I told them that I still need to learn. See, I cannot earn right now. I still feel the need to learn more. And they supported me wholeheartedly. But what if I was to sustain myself? I would have said, okay, I will go to Guruji tomorrow. Let's just look for a job today. So, those kinds of attitude I see in youngsters nowadays, the moment they are 18, 20, they want to earn, they want to be independent. I didn't see that streaking me or my friends also at that point of time. We were happy taking money from our parents and still concentrate on learning. In India, we don't kick our kids out the moment they turn 18. That's not our culture. So, that's a good thing. Yeah, I believe it's a good thing. And some of the families, they do practice this thing, they do keep their kids with them. And so, that pressure was not there on me. But now I see the kids taking that pressure, the parents are not kicking them out. They are as protective as ever. In India, it is increasing rather, I'd say, this protectiveness. But they feel this need because they are so westernized now. They say that I am 20, so I need my pocket money, I need my independence. So, with Indian classical art forms, you need to give it enough time.


How One Should communicate with an Artist (01:17:48)

It's very, very important. Not only time under your Guru, learning as much as you can, but time as an audience to learn from others by watching. This concept of observing and learning is also very, very intrinsic to Indian classical art forms.


Develop Confidence (01:18:10)

So, you watch other performances and not only Kathak, but Bharatnath, but Manipuri. Since I was brought up in the Mundi house area where all the cultural centers are there, I had the opportunity to go and watch performances all the time. And so, I learnt a lot from that as well. And just this watching on YouTube, as we were talking about earlier, this barrier of screen is there. You are not able to feel the performance. You watch the performance, you don't feel it. You have to be there to feel it, right? Yes, you have to be there to feel it. This God made screen is very, very important. So, these are the things that probably are changing and will change the face of the art forms. Do you think classical dance is a good viable career option for a young person? It can be. You have to be more open-minded about it in the sense that you have to, I believe, one has to take the multidisciplinary approach. I just did a small research paper and I was talking about the evolving pedagogy. And when I started reading about it, then I saw that there should be a separate pedagogy for choreography now. There should be a separate pedagogy for dance being used as a therapy. And so on and so forth. There should be special training for people who want to teach dance in schools, who want to teach dance in universities. If we don't diversify that way, then probably just being a performer or a teacher just with these two little alleys opening up, it won't be a financially viable option. There should be the opportunity to get into arts management, which is missing in India. We don't have that aspect at all. What do you mean by arts management? Arts management, there should be someone who can produce the shows for you. So, the pressure is off you as a performer? Yes, you as a performer should only think about performing. Ideally, which is still happening in the West, but unfortunately, it has not trickled down. All these good things are not trickling down. So, in that way, we need to diversify, we need to see dance more than just performing or teaching.


Making Classical Dance Thrive (01:21:09)

But we need to open more avenues. When we are able to do that, then dance will be a viable option as a career. So, there was a time in the past when classical dance was popular culture. Today, Bollywood and other stuff is popular culture. Classical dance, unfortunately, has become a niche aspect of culture. How can we make classical dance thrive again? It is so rich and it has so much to offer. How do we make this thrive again? As I said, we need more support from the government. And why put so much pressure on the government? I believe all these business houses, these big, big business houses like Pepsi and Coke, who sponsor all these best influenced events in colleges and all. Why can't they sponsor classical concerts? And why can't young artists be paid well and given a good stage? Why only the very popular ones? And that is a very sad situation. The big ones are being paid in lakhs and crores and the younger ones are being told, here you take 10,000 per form and get your musicians, please. Yes, and pay them from that. And pay them from that 10,000. We are giving you exposure. This word exposure is a very hated term now. So, we need these people who are in these influential positions to come and support our Indian culture. There are so many different ways that they already earn money. And also I feel that this sort of, this bent of mind can be developed into the kids while they are in school. So, when in another 15, 20 years when they are in a position as CEOs, as entrepreneurs, they have that idea behind them that yes, I have to support my culture, I have to support my artistic system. We don't teach anything about our culture in the education system. No, absolutely not. And with this IED thing coming in, our children don't even know about the history of India. That's the problem. That's why that's what everything goes wrong. Yes, it was a shock to me when I was teaching the kids who are around, I think they must be 10, 11 years old presently. And I was telling them about the history of Kathak in the most simplest of ways. And then there was this one child who was looking at me absolutely clueless. So, I said, what happened? Why do you look so lost? So, the other one said, ma'am, she has this I.B. syllabus, no? So, she doesn't know about all these, the history of India. So, I said, great. You are living in India, you are not being taught the history of India because you are calling the syllabus that belongs there. This entire set up, the schooling system needs to change. When you are talking about how can we make it viable, this system has to change. Teach the kids to learn, to love their culture, expose them to the culture. It's as simple as that. You don't need to spend a lot of time doing that, just a little bit of exposure, some awareness and then they can explore on their own. Yes, and they will develop an interest. No, it is there in their genes. It's in the genes. It's in the genes. Yes, they will. Now, the worst part of it is when people come with their children and they say, I want her to know her culture. You are bringing your child to me to know her culture. What are you doing? So, why am I needed for that? I should only be needed for telling her, teaching her the nuances of her culture. Not to tell her what our mythology is. So, if we stop thinking in terms of mythology as city stories, but as something that was created to teach people values and ethics and morals, then we'll understand the deeper context in it and we will be able to transfer it to our children. But unfortunately, we are just running behind everything Western. Yes, true. Now, my perspective is that since the government abolished the royal houses, it is now their responsibility to support the artists. And to some extent, they are doing it. But my question, I'm wondering whether the people who are in charge of the decision making process of allocating funds and all that, do they understand Indian culture? Do they care about Indian culture? Mostly, they don't. That's the problem. The Bhagus, the bureaucrats. That is a very sorry state. But that is what I'm saying. If we start working now at the school level, at the pre-primary level, in another 20 years, there'll be a crop of adults who understand this, who value this and will be able to support it. Those people also you can't really blame exactly because they have been brought up the same way.


Guidance For Aspiring Dancers

General Advice to Young People (01:26:25)

Indeed, yes. You can't blame them for that. Yes. Because they have not been taught this culture by their parents, by their schools. So they are blissfully unaware. Yes. And they don't have the understanding or sensitivity towards culture and the artists. And the artists, right. So this thing has to change at the pre-primary level, I believe. Well, I hope the government takes some note of this in case they hear this. My last question to you is, this is something I ask everybody. What advice would you give to young people? Not as a classical dancer, not as an artist, but general advice. It is very important to stay connected to your roots. It is very good to appreciate whatever is around you. It is in this era of globalization, you need to know a lot about a lot of things. I understand that. But at the same time, it is very important to be grounded in your culture, in your value system. And if you have that, you lead a very happy life. Somehow we are coming to a point where we want to monetize everything. Although you're not talking about dance or music, you're talking about a general perception of things. When people come with their children, to me, they want them to learn dance. Their next question is, how will she be able to use it? That aspect of use and throw has to go from our lives. It has entered into all areas. So we don't want to do anything that we cannot make use of. That, I feel, is a very, very wrong way of thinking because we are not working on ourselves at all. We are not working on our growth. We don't care about what makes us happy. And we just care about how much we can earn from this, what benefits can we get from this particular certificate. And therefore, we should go for that and not for something that really satisfies us. So this inner strength, this inner happiness, this feeling of gratitude, we are losing very, very fast and we need to get back to it. Very important message. Satyaj, thank you so much for a fascinating conversation. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much. I had a very nice time. Thank you. I hope you really enjoyed this conversation and gained something of genuine value from it. Subscribe now. Thank you and I'll see you soon.


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