Dancers Hari and Chetna tell Shilpa Sebastian R they steer clear of contemporary forms because there is so much to discover and learn from Kathak that a lifetime will not be sufficient

They share a passion for Kathak and started the Noopur Performing Art Centre in Viveknagar in 1996. The young couple, Hari and Chetana, are climbing the popularity ladder in classical dance with their simplicity and dedication.

“We believe in destiny and that is what made us tie the knot. We share the same energy when it comes to dance. We realised that we were doing everything – performing, choreographing, teaching – together. We were married in our minds and spirit first, hence it made sense to become a couple,” says Hari, who is the more eloquent of the two.

Both are trained in Bharatanatya and Kathak. Hari also dabbled in contemporary dance before meeting Chetana, who helped him “rediscover my passion for Kathak.” Both give credit to their joy, prosperity and peace to dance and dance alone.

They vouch for Kathak and say that “every classical dance form is a medium that helps you grow both spiritually and emotionally”.

The duo started learning Kathak from Bharati Vittal, who they say “is a friend and a teacher. Dance is good for it brings something new in your life. It brings in a fresh thinking and also humbles you as a person,” says Hari.

“As artistes we have to imbibe purity in our hearts. Art of any kind can change the mindset or the character of a person,” he adds.

Chetana chimes in saying: “Any art is god’s work. Dance is like serving god, with our dedication and long hours that we spend narrating stories from the mythology.”

The duo are first generation dancers; they started dancing early and had a tough time before they carved a niche for themselves.

“We didn’t have money nor did we come from a great heritage in the field of dance. We never thought of making money through dance, rather we got into for passion. We do not want to tag our dance or our talent with a particulate price. It is amazing that even though there is no money in dance, nor any political push or power involved in it, people take to it, because it offers them something that is beyond all physical energies,” Hari commented.

“The best part is though we are into dance full time, it is not work for us at all. We are also passionate about teaching and it is lovely to share our talent and all that we have with our students,” says Chetana.

Their drive to learn more took them to Kumudini Lakhia, an eminent dancer in the Jaipur and Lucknow gharana.

“She made us aware of our potential. She polished our thoughts and helped us discover what we were and what we could become,” recalls Hari, who adds “while learning dance we had certain bad experiences. So we make a conscious effort to make learning enjoyable to our students. We teach them that we are their friend and guide and that they do not have to keep us on a pedestal as is the tradition.”

“Teaching, in a way, breaks your ego. As you share your knowledge, you also learn to appreciate the grace and talent of your student. That’s when you learn not to draw all the attention to yourself but also to help groom budding talents,” adds Chetana.

The two steer clear off the contemporary dance field just because “there is so much to discover and learn from Kathak that a lifetime will not be sufficient.

“Contemporary dance needs a completely different mindset. Our aim is to popularise Kathak. We want it to become a part of people’s lives as Bollywood dance is today,” dreams Hari.

“Why invest in a new dance form when you are already involved intimately in one form?” asks Chetana.

“Our aim is to present simple concepts. We want our audience to understand and connect with what we narrate through our moves. We want everyone to be aware of this grand dance style, which brings newness into your life. As people celebrate New Year, they should take to dance and celebrate life everyday,” propagates Hari.

“Everyone must experience dance in one’s lifetime—they have to either see, learn or encourage others to learn it. For you lose out on so much by ignoring these beautiful classical dance styles.

“If a dancer has a deep knowledge of his art, then his creativity is like an open dictionary. Dance is that bridge that can connect people,” states Hari.

The couple teach dance at Noopur on weekends from 12 p.m. to 4 p.n. and can be contacted on 9845888626 or harinoopur.com.