Dance

Natya Institute’s course in choreography

Madhu Natraj   | Photo Credit: SHAMANTH PATIL J R

As a participant at the dance improvisation programme held as part of the American Arts Festival, New Delhi, Madhu Natraj was told to show the many ways in which the index finger can be moved. Impressed by the young girl’s imagination, the mentor told her, “If the three joints of your index finger can be used to express, think of the limitless permutation and combination of movements you can create using all the muscles and joints of the body. This is the power of dance.” For someone who was not keen to pursue dance professionally, these words made a huge impact and Madhu found her calling in the performing arts.

Daughter of renowned Kathak dancer and choreographer Maya Rao, she went beyond the training and structured repertoire to explore dance on her terms, finally going on to head the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography that her mother, along with Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, had started in New Delhi in 1964. It was moved to Bengaluru at the behest of the late Karnataka Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde. Later, Madhu launched the STEM (Space, Time, Energy, Motion) Dance Kampni, to focus on contemporary choreography. “I combined martial arts and yoga with Kathak. Since I choreographed my first production in 1995, I have always collaborated with other disciplines like sculpture, painting and theatre to offer a wholesome experience to the audience.”

One of Madhu Natraj’s productions

One of Madhu Natraj’s productions   | Photo Credit: Stem Kampini

Structured courses

The Natya Institute also introduces students to the aesthetics of choreography through some uniquely designed courses. Owing to the pandemic, the courses have moved online, and they cover a vast array of subjects ranging from Indian aesthetics and art history, Natyashastra and the history of choreography, movement analysis, cultural anthropology, stage lighting, set design, costume and more. “The aim is to develop a holistic vision,” says Madhu.

“We had to restructure the courses for online teaching. We started two new courses — skills diploma in choreography and skills diploma in Kathak — certified by JUx and Jain University (deemed). Designed as a mentorship programme, 12 students from across the globe are chosen and trained for a year. The first batch of students are nearing the completion of their course,” says Madhu.

In May 2020, the Dr. Maya Rao Kathak and Choreography conference was launched. “It was held virtually. Instead of 400 people attending, we had nearly 30,000 views. Such is the reach of the digital platform, but we need to take care not to dilute its effect. Since the start of the pandemic, the major challenge has been to sustain ourselves financially.”

The institute now works in three areas — creating new contemporary works, training young dancers, and reaching out to rural areas through the arts. “Over the past year, we have raised funds to support more than 100 folk artistes,” says Madhu.

The dancer says she can never forget her mother’s words when she was trying to get back to dance. “She told me, ‘Ask yourself if you have the capacity to choose creative satisfaction over monetary gain. If yes, go ahead and fulfil your dreams’.”

The author is a Chennai-based

freelance writer.


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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 4:59:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/natya-institutes-course-in-choreography/article36118694.ece

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