“There is a saying in dance: ‘If the bhava (emotion) in the dancer is strong, then the rasa (aesthetic enjoyment) is created well in the audience’.
I want to deliver such a performance where the audience goes home smiling. I feel responsible for people who come to watch me.”
Meet Prateeksha Kashi, the new-age Kuchipudi dancer and artiste, who knows her audience well. As classical dances come out of the shadow of rigidly structured traditional forms to experiment and please the changing palate of ever-evolving audiences, there is a growing tribe of dancers which has planted strong roots in traditional ground and yet, branched out to embrace the contemporary. And Prateeksha is one among the pack.
Mixing the old and new
With her latest performance in the production Essence of Life, held in Bangalore for the second time, Prateeksha has broken new ground by experimenting with the contemporary ideas of philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti — on fear, suffering, hatred, violence and death — in a classical Kuchipudi framework.
“The best part about dancing for me is the very fact that I am dancing. Dance is my way of thanking the higher powers for everything that I have been endowed with, and at the same time, it is the only moment when my mind stops functioning, letting emotions take over completely. I feel very special to have been gifted with this art of dance,” passion rings true in her voice. Prateeksha hails from the artistic family of the legendary Gubbi Veeranna, and was initiated into dance at a tender age of five. Ever since, she has trained in Kuchipudi under the guidance of her mother and guru Vyjayanthi Kashi, a celebrated performer and choreographer.
“My family has never pressurised me for anything as such, let alone dance, and this has been one of the main reasons for me to fall in love with dance. It was never imposed upon me to carry on the family legacy. This freedom has made dancing all the more special. But, as a dancer, I have certain expectations from myself,” she says.
As Prateeksha climbed great heights, as national recognition came her way one graceful step at a time. She is a graded artiste of the broadcasting media Doordarshan Kendra, and also an empanelled artiste of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Prateeksha has performed in several Indian dance festivals across the country. She is one of the few dancers to have been selected to advance her studies in Kuchipudi by the Central Government, and has been honoured with the Aryabhata International Award-2011, and The Young Dancer Award by Sanjali for excellence in Kuchipudi.
She also has the prestigious titles of Nalanda Nritya Nipuna, instituted by the renowned Nalanda Dance Research Centre, and Nritya Jyoti, awarded at the Naveen Kalakar, to her credit.
With her passion, exquisite grace and commendable command over technique, the young Bangalore-based artiste has also won the hearts of many an International dance lover. Prateeksha has been part of the prestigious Milap Fest-UK and Asea-Italy, and conducted Kuchipudi workshops along with her mother.
She won a dance competition at the Vedic Heritage of Pandit Jasraj in New York, and her performance in the first International Kannada Convention in Los Angeles was well appreciated. All this, while she was juggling a fulltime career as a software engineer!
Meaning of accolades
“Accolades and admiration, for me, are like milestones. They bring a sense of satisfaction, joy and encouragement. More importantly, they help me focus better on my future projects and act as a catalyst to prepare me for the next challenge.” However, her most rewarding experience to date, she says modestly, is the way dance has moulded her. “I’m a better person today. I can multi-task, manage time well, and I’ve gained confidence. I feel humble.”
Speaking about her recent performance, Prateeksha says portraying contemporary issues in classical dance forms is a huge challenge. “I am attempting an abstract concept for the first time. In classical dances, such a concept (teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti) has never been staged in a cultural arena, as we can’t interpret this literally. I had to knit my own story to convey the teachings, and in a way, that would cater to all kinds of audience — those who are familiar with Kuchipudi and those who aren’t,” she says.
From crashing her mother’s performance as a five-year-old toddler to a successful stint as a software engineer, to teaching students the nimble and fast footwork of Kuchipudi, Prateeksha has changed tempos to match the beat of life.
Her next act sees her taking her abhinaya on stage to the small screen.