My first ever Kathak perfromance was in December 2014, and was a fundraiser for the Jaag Foundation. From the very beginning, I knew that the first performance I make in front of a large audience should also contribute to the greater good of society. In hindsight, this commitment to helping those in need not only made this event a lot more satisfying and special, but also made me a lot more nervous before performing.
Even a year and a half later, I remember how I felt that overwhelming anxiety mixed with a genuine excitement for what was to come.It was almost as though I had a crash course of the entire performance run through my mind in just a few minutes! It was at that time where I remembered all those months of tireless training and planning that had gone into trying to make that day as successful as possible. But this performance was of great personal importance, not just for these reasons, but also because it was a platform on which I could showcase my confidence and grace. Throughout my childhood, I was quite shy and reserved, and I never thought there would ever come a day where I would willingly perform in front of a large audience, let alone Kathak, known for being ‘The Art of Expression’ and the one dance form that requires most self confidence. However, over the years, I grew as a dancer, and as a person, and this performance was a chance for me to showcase my new, transformed self.
This inundation of thoughts and feelings that I was experiencing before taking the stage amounted to one of the most joyous experiences of my life, till date. It was at this time when I really understood what people mean when they say ‘I danced my heart out’. At that time, I didn’t really care how well or how badly I was performing, and what people were thinking of me as a dancer; all I was feeling was an overbearing sense of joy and contentment. This may all be sounding rather clichéd, but I truly belive that you only become a dancer once you feel what I felt on the stage that day.
Yet, the second I left the stage after performing for an hour and a half and being lost in a world of my own, reality caught up with me and a playback of all the mistakes I had made was flashing in front of me. I suddenly became nervous to ask people about their thoughts on my performance, especially my guruma. That’s when I had what we could call an epiphany, one that I remember even today. I realised that a stage is much more than a construction. A stage is a place where performers have the freedom to create their own worlds, free from whatever holds them back in reality. For me, this was the social consciousness that sometimes limited my creativity and expression.
This one performance, though, has broadened my horizons, not just imaginatively and creatively, but also morally. The proceeds that went to the Jaag Foundation, as well as the awareness that was raised for their cause to help underpriveleged tribals were the driving force for this performance. In the end, we even had some of the children from the tribe perform. This gave them a chance to feel what I felt on the stage that day, to forget about all their troubles, and step into their own little utopia for a fleeting, yet special few minutes.