Her ode to kathak

Her ode to kathak

elegant moves

Her ode to kathak

As a dance form, kathak is in a class of its own — just the precision with which the dancers twirl continously can be mind-boggling.

And dancer Shoma Kaikini has established Nrityanidhi as she has innovated her own ingenious style of dance that uses kathak in varied genres of music and presents soulful choreographic work. One of the torchbearers in popularising kathak in Bengaluru, Shoma tells us more about her tryst with dance.

The beginnings

Shoma started her journey with kathak as a six-year-old and has also learnt bharatnatyam. In school, she had to memorise poetry and she distinctly remembers that her mother would help her study. “I would dance those lines in front of her and she would have this big smile on her face. I have seen and experienced dance ever since I can remember. Movement of any sort would encourage me to think of patterns and emotions that were attached with those patterns. In my head, the world looked so beautiful all the time. Everything moved. Everything danced. Being a dancer was always the obvious truth of my life,” says Shoma.

Soon, she learnt that bharatnatyam showed her how she enjoyed the freedom of movement and her childhood memory established a brand new attraction towards kathak. “Kathak has freedom of expression, freedom to play with rhythm and body movement. I moved back to Mumbai and pursued kathak. Nrityanidhi was founded in 2005.” Incidentally, she always envisioned creating her own, ingenious style of dance that expressed music in the most soulful manner, using a classical dance style, and kathak provided the right base for this creative exploration.

Of spiritual exuberance

Dance, as an art form, has always been a medium for self-realisation. “Today, people are only looking at art as a physical, mental or emotional medium of expression. When in reality, it is an expression of the spirit. In order to be a great artiste, one needs to befriend the spirit and express from their divine side. Art has the scope for that magic and thus it becomes a pathway to divine exuberance,” says Shoma, who is inspired by innocence, laughter, love, kindness, oneness, nature, animals, mindfulness, and even a nice deep breath.

With the awareness of the significance of art rising extensively, she says that it is important to make a dance class fun for children to pursue it seriously. “I am from Bengaluru and I have grown up with friends pursuing  art forms with as much dedication as their education. When I moved to Mumbai, it was very different. Children were sent to five different classes a day.

Some only because they could get good seats in colleges with these certificates. I am so grateful to Bengaluru for showing me that side of artistic pursuit. Nrityanidhi tries hard to attract children and make classes fun and interesting. However, over the past decade, there is definitely an improvement in interest levels. Every time Pandit Birju Maharajji comes to Mumbai for a workshop, I see hundreds of children from all over India joining in with full enthusiasm. The generation today is much more smarter in this matter. How long can one dance on disco numbers, and what internal satisfaction does one get by doing that? A classically-trained dancer, on the other hand, can dance to anything under the sun, for he/she connects with the real source behind movement. That can be to a thumri or a Michael Jackson number.”

Show time

A big achievement for Shoma was when her troupe represented India among 36 other countries, at the Nanning Folk Art Festival in China. “Before our troupe went to China, I felt that Indian art is the best and I was almost arrogant about it. There were 36 other countries there and I learnt the lesson of my life. Art is art. Art is as beautiful in Germany, as it is in Argentina, as it is in Poland. The experience was wonderful. Most artistes did not know English, so we would communicate through gestures and facial expressions. A dancer from Argentina gestured to me that “your dance makes me cry with joy” and my eyes get moist every time I think of that moment. Our troupe would get introduced as ‘INDU’, which means ‘India’ in Chinese. That feeling was always surreal. What more, our troupe was chosen to perform for the closing ceremony. India can have that kind of impact, you see. We returned feeling extra respectful of our beloved country.”

Shoma has also done a cameo in Zoya Akhtar’s Bombay Talkies. “I am a dancer and not an actress. I had no idea how I would pull this off. The sets looked beautiful and all of us were given lovely costumes and makeup. Somehow, in merely two takes I pulled it off, and trust me, till this day, I have no idea how I did that.”

Shoma is currently focussed on Nrityanidhi and plans on travelling far and wide, with workshops and performances.