My journey in Kathak began when I was 6 years old. My mother had always wanted me to pursue this dance form, as she herself practiced Bharatnatyam for 10 years, but preferred the grace and delicacy that comes with Kathak.
As a shy and quiet child, I faced many difficulties performing Kathak and even giving exams at the beginning. Although I did attend classes quite regularly, I always tried to find excuses to stop practicing Kathak, as I dismissed it as something that I was not fit for. At the age of 12, I took a break from Kathak.
This is something I still regret, as I lost two years during which I could have worked on my skills as a Kathak dancer and increased my confidence. However, in a way, the absence of Kathak as part of my daily routine made me realise just how passionate of Kathak I was.Not only did I miss the balance it gave me in my life, it was a form of exercise that also advanced my fitness. Moreover, I realised that the grace and poise that comes with Kathak is not limited to the constraints of dance. It transforms you into a person who is a lot more elegant and cultured, and these traits are reflected in all aspects of life.
During these 2 years of my break from Kathak, I realised that the benefits that Kathak brought to my life more than outweighed my inhibitions, which stopped me from pursuing the dance initially. That’s why at the age of 14, I started practicing Kathak once again. It is needless to say that the only person I would want to be instructed by again was my Guruma, Mrs. Aarti Mishra. Even when I wasn’t practicing Kathak for those two years, the bond I shared with my guruma never deteriorated.
When I restarted my journey of Kathak, I had an enhanced and more genuine interest for the dance form. Even though academic pressures had increased at this point,I knew that I had to pursue Kathak with a lot more seriousness. My classes became a lot more regular, and this improved my grasp on the technicalities of Kathak by a large amount. The one thing that I really worked hard on was my footwork, and today, I believe it is the aspect of Kathak that I am most skilled at. By regularly practicing for the annual written and practical exams, and by watching videos of various Kathak masters, my skills of the challenging technicalities of Kathak had largely improved.
Moreover, my confidence had increased. Once I started practicing Kathak again, I knew I had to work on the one thing that stopped me from pursuing Kathak a few years ago. With the motivation and guidance of my Guruma, I started performing at small religious events every year. To me, the most important , and the most awaited of these was the Guru Poornima. It is commonly known that in this event, the shishya(student) is supposed to pay their respects to their Guruma in the form of a pooja and in the form of dance. It was during these functions where I felt it was important to showcase all that I had learned from my Guruma, and forget about all my inhibitions to do so. Therefore, by performing in small events such as these, my confidence to perform, and my confidence in all aspects of life had greatly increased.
These events had also made me realise that I was the senior most student of my Guruma. Although this was repeatedly said to me since the beginning, I only realised its importance when all of guruma’s students gathered together at these events, and I had to be the student that everyone had to look up to. I realised that there was no room for inhibitions when I had to try and inspire the rest of the students. With this confidence and motivation, along with my regular practice of varied types of dance forms, I started performing in even larger events, with a larger audience.
In all these classes, performances and exams, the one thing that I looked forward to the most in Kathak was expressing myself. Over the years, as my passion for Kathak grew, it had become an outlet for me to express all the emotions that used to build up during a regular day. It had become a space for myself, which did not lie within my rigid academic schedule. Even today, despite the stress of increasing workload, I make a genuine effort to practice Kathak regularly, because it gives me the balance and mental stability that I need.
Kathak has now become a part of my identity, and it has improved my life physically, psychologically, culturally and in every other way possible. Despite all the faitigue that comes with this strenous dance form, the stability it brings to someone’s life can only be experienced by indulging oneself into Kathak. With the unconditional and determined support of my Guruma, I am proud to say that Kathak has become my frontrunning artistic talents, and passions.
Although I will be giving my final exam this year, and acknowldging my status as a professional Kathak dancer in my Gandha Bandhan in the near future, Kathak will always remain a part of my life, and it is something that I aim to carry forward in the future.