'Kathak demands dedication'

Dance tradition

The gracious moves of Mahua Shankar are as fascinating as is the flower ‘Mahua’. Danseuse Shankar has been trained under the guidance of Pandit Birju Maharaj and was named by him as well. One of the finest Kathak Dancers, Shankar is from the Lucknow Gharana and has been performing for over a decade now. She has contributed to this tradition and has spread the culture of Kathak across the globe. She was in Delhi
for a Music and Dance Festival. She talks about her recent performance, fusion dance form and upcoming projects

Excerpts:
How different was your performance at Ibteeda Festival?
There was an element of Sufism in this performance and generally it is believed that Sufi performances include a lot of circular movements. It is not so. You can take Sufi performances and change them with emotions. The other performance was more of an interaction and a sharing of views; it was a ‘hum-kalam’ through music and dance.
The first song Mo se bol ya na bol has two meanings. It can either be seen as a dedication to a beloved or can be seen as a dedication to a divine power. It moves between the realms of romance and spirituality.

What are your upcoming projects?
At the moment I am dealing with students from many foreign countries, like Istanbul, Taiwan and Ukraine. There is a student from the Malayalam film industry. While I am going to do some programs with Spic Macay in Orissa and Udaipur, I am mainly devoted to these students. It feels great when you see a foreigner taking up this art. It is not my personal achievement but has to be attributed to Kathak.

What message you have for aspiring Kathak dancers?
Children these days are full of enthusiasm and many parents support them in whatever they want to pursue. The main hurdle comes when one lacks focus. While it is good to multitask, Kathak demands dedication. You cannot take it up one day, take long breaks for your other classes and come back to Kathak a few days later. If you are pursuing several things keeping in mind that you will be at least successful in one, it will not work out. One should not run after success. Of course, success and money matter but a lot of patience is required. For example Bollywood dance is becoming very popular these days. It is being taken up by many. But the shelf life of
Bollywood songs is very small, these songs are replaced every two months. But there is a lot of stability in Kathak.

What is your stand on fusion dance forms?
Any classical dance form has a different audience. At a point of time I was also very rigid and against contemporary dance forms. But I learnt that Kathak in itself is so rich, the work on rhythm is endless, and we have to do so much extempore work that it is not very difficult to merge it with any other dance form. In the end it does not matter if we do fusion or contemporary, because our base remains the same, Kathak. There is a
different flavour to fusion but there is nothing wrong with that and I am so grateful that I have learnt this from some of the finest Kathak dancers.

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