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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Kathak lessons at SPIC MACAY’s workshop


Kathak exponent Rani Khanam introduces young learners to the nuances of bhaav and taal

In an effort to beat the pandemic blues, SPIC MACAY launched the ‘Sarva Mangal Yog Series’ online with a versatile mix of dance, music, art and craft workshops alongside a yoga camp. The workshops stretch across five days offering an ambit of activities for young learners to explore aspects of arts, cultural heritage and history.

Kathak exponent Rani Khanam is one of the gurus in the programme, training a batch of students including learners with formal dance training as well as those who are being initiated into classical dance for the first time. Stressing the importance of the lineage, style and the uniqueness of each school of Kathak, she introduces learners to different gharanas. An artiste from the Lucknow gharana of Kathak, Rani Khanam combines the reflective mysticism of Sufi poets with the lyrical grace of the Lucknow technique to interpret the gharana in imaginative ways.

“It’s very important to first understand the history of Kathak and trace the stories of different artistic lineages of the form to find your connection with it,” she says. “The term Kathak itself came into prominence after the 1960s, earlier it was known by different names. The storytelling tradition of the dance form is its most significant aspect.” She also dwelt on the expansive nature of the form and its prominence across North India. “The use of multiple languages and dialects in the compositions is proof of the fact that the form was adopted in, and adapted to several different regions, amalgamating many cultural traditions into its fold.”

Exploring rhythm

Gently introducing learners to the taal system, she says, “Rhythm anchors any form of music and dance as well as everyday life, in Kathak the importance of rhythm and footwork is unique and foremost.” Ektaal, Dhamaar taal, Jhumra and Deepachandi, Pancham Sawari and Gajajhampa, Teentaal, Punjabi taal were some of the commonly used taals she explains. Leading the students through basic footwork and stances she introduces them to the concepts of tihai, gat and various parts of a composition. While focusing on the precision of the postures and rhythmic movements, she also demonstrates the softness of the hand gestures.

According to Rani Khanam, flow and fluidity are cornerstones of the Kathak movement repertoire. She discusses different characters from mythology that are commonly portrayed in dance recitals and initiates the participants into the nuances of attempting abhinaya.

As the workshop proceeds, each student appears on camera, presenting the basic footwork and taal recitation. “Sharpness and precision are key in imbibing the taal,” observes the guru, correcting the learners patiently. For several youngsters, this is their first brush with the world of Kathak and they have several questions to ask. Sharing the importance of repetition, practice and riyaaz, the guru encourages the students to integrate the dance form into their daily life to truly be immersed in it and extend their dance journeys.

The author is a Delhi based arts researcher and writer.



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