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Swati Sanjay Pillai: The emerging talent in Kathak

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Bhopal:   Ahead of World Dance Day on April 29 ,  Ms.Swati Sanjay Pillai, Bhopal based budding and classical Kathak dancer and artist  says” I feel I was born to propagate Kathak in bringing its past glory.  India is one culturally rich country, where almost every state has its language, cuisine, and dance forms. When it comes to dancing, India has traditional, classical, folk, and tribal dance styles, and all are simply amazing.

All the incredible classical dances that originated in the country during ancient times are very special and precious. Among all these dance forms one is Kathak. Throughout history, quite unlike most classical art forms, Kathak has seldom been performed as an offering to a deity, instead from its earliest stages, it has been a recital directed at an audience comprising its patrons as well as the common people. Indian classical dances  celebrated across the globe for their enriching and mesmerising virtuosity  can be traced back to centuries old ways of storytelling, performed as much for entertainment as for the spread of cultures and knowledge. Each classical form is built upon layers of complex histories that often converge at the intersection of culture, art, politics, and even conflict, readjusting its structures and boundaries in the light of revolution and reform. Consequently, varying styles of the art form find new homes and families to become gharanas, yet other dance forms are added to the ever-dynamic definition of what constitutes as classical.

Talking about her passion for Kathak, Ms. Swati Sanjay Pillai stated, “My breath and my joy is Kathak. “Dance has been a breakthrough for me personally. Through dance I found myself, and within myself, I found God.” Swati believes it is important to think deeply about the form, continue training rigorously, and attempt one’s own interpretations to shape your journey. She stated that evolving with the dance form to find your own artistic voice is truly important. “My gurus have inspired me to keep questioning, find new ways of expressing creativity. People might love it or hate it, but one must have the courage to dance your own dance, to express your truth.”

Kathak is commonly regarded as one of the seven classical dances of India and is the only one from North India. Kathak has been enriched greatly by the contributions of musicians, dancers, professional women artists, and court and landlord patronage.  She explained that Kathak is an elegant dance form of Northern India and revolves around the concept of story-telling related to Indian ancient and mythological culture. It is further characterised by intricate footwork, body movement and precise rhythmic patterns. Kathak is one of the 8th major forms of Indian classical dance. The origin of Kathak is traditionally attributed to the travelling birds in ancient Northern India known as kathakers or storytellers. The term Kathak is derived from the vedic Sanskrit word Katha which means story and kathakar which means the one who tells a story or to do with stories. Wandering Kathak communicated stories from the great epics and ancient mythology through dance, songs and music. Kathak dancers tell various stories through their hand moments and extensive food work, the body moments and flexibility but most importantly through their facial expressions. It has both the influences of Hindu and Muslim Gharana and cultural elements in it. Kathak performances include Bhajan and Urdu ghazals because this is commonly used in both the codes as well as in temples too.Kathak is found in four distinct form called Gharana name after the cities where the Kathak dance tradition evolved they are Jaipur, Banaras,Lucknow,and Raigarh.

Where every Indian classical dance is rooted in the rhythms of the taal, Kathak is in fact the only one in which the taal itself is brought to life. Some of the most well-known taal structures like the tritaal [16 beats], jhaptaal [10 beats], chautaal [12 beats], and dhamar [14 beats] are often taken to the stage by a performer and highlighted through compositions like that, amad, toda, paran, and tatkaar [footwork].She stated that evolving with the dance form to find your own artistic voice is truly important.

Swati is undoubtedly an inspiration for all the young girls out there who are aiming to learn kathak, as she makes it look easy and mesmerizing, making us want to try it out ourselves.

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