A recent seminar in New Delhi on the need to revive fading aspects of Kathak was a praiseworthy effort, even as it led to the basic question — how can these aspects be revived without being re-integrated into the classroom technique?
Laudable is the initiative of Aamad Kathak Dance Centre in holding a ‘Festival To Revive the Fading Aspects of Age-Old Masterpiece Compositions and their Aesthetic Aspects’. The seminar spread over two days provided a rich insight into different aspects of Kathak by distinguished speakers such as Shri Sunil Kothari, Smt. Chetna Jyotishi, Smt. Arshiya Sethi, and Smt. Manjari Sinha. The lecture-demonstration by Smt. Vaswati Misra, Smt. Roshan Datye, and the demonstration by Shri Subhash Chandra were a rare treat.
The seminar, however, throws up a few questions that need to be addressed! How can the ‘fading aspects’ of a rich tradition be revived? Can it be done through occasional screening of excerpts of this tradition? Can it be accomplished through presentation of relevant lecture-demonstrations from time to time? Or, does it need to be part of the classroom training as a living tradition? It is interesting to note that a number of the finer Kathak dancers have a very strong grasp of these delicate aspects ingrained in them by the relentless effort of their gurus — Guru Reba Vidyarthi, Guru Lachhu Maharaj, Guru Rohini Bhate — who carried out intensive training in these areas within the classroom premises!
‘That the seeker will always find’ is a norm that all of us know to be true. The ‘seeker’ always gravitates to the source that will satisfy his/her thirst. Then where is the need to have institutions? True, also, that only a few of all of the students being trained, will make it to the solo level. What happens to the large majority that will have spent years in acquiring skills in Kathak? They will perform (at whatever level), they will teach, or choreograph, or take to art-journalism (if they have writing skills), or become cultural organisers, or just be rasikas who would love to watch a good performance. The quality of their participation in the cultural process will definitely be affected by the skills and perception they have gained during their period of training.
All of us, I think, are in agreement that the ‘rasa’ evoked during a performance also depends on the level of sensitivity and sensitisation of the ‘rasika’. Therefore, it becomes very important that the fading aesthetic aspects of the tradition be revived within the classroom. It is true that performance spaces have changed and this requires re-thinking in terms of presentation. However, we can still equip the students with the broader as well as the finer nuances of Kathak (to be used as per requirement of the performance space they will be employing).
Tradition always flows. That which was the tradition yesterday, is not the tradition today, which again, will not be the tradition tomorrow! The reason that I refer to classroom training again and again is, that the festival organised by Aamad stated the revival of age-old masterpiece compositions and their aesthetic aspects as its focal point. The revival can only happen within the training process. Of this, I am deeply convinced!
(The author is a Kathak dancer, teacher and Yoga instructor trained under Gurus Munna Shukla and Rohini Bhate. She is founder of Tyaag — The Yoga And Art Group)