Uma Dogra, the reputed Kathak danseuse has opened her school in Andheri, and is inviting Classical dance enthusiasts and dancers to learn and apply the form in their life
When we heard that renowned Kathak dancer Uma Dogra has just opened up her dance school in Versova, the idea and the school piqued our curiosity. Tucked like a small shaded heaven and easy to find — being situated next to the popular landmark salon — we felt as if we had walked into a time warp. Reminding one of summer holidays and fun activities, the dance school felt like another home.
Uma Dogra (in yellow) with her senior students at her new school. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Having learned the dance form for over 50 years, and having taught for almost half the number of years, we asked the noted danseuse what propelled her to open this school now. “Since my guruji’s (Pandit Durgalalji) passing away, I have been teaching dance. But all this time, I have been teaching in different institutions. For the last 10 years, I have been teaching my senior students at a workshop in Bangur Nagar (Goregaon). Now, since I have 100 students of mine all over Mumbai, I felt that they should come together under the same roof and learn under the gurukul parampara.”
Passionately vocal about the intimate bond of the guru (mentor) and the shishya (pupil), she points out that she had undergone the gandha bandan ceremony, which signifies close relations between the two.
Continuing the thought, Dogra shares, “We have conceived the school keeping all of this in mind. The institute, including the studio inside, has a very welcoming ambiance. My students feel comfortable enough to come in and heat their lunches in the kitchen. We sit outside, share food, talk about dance, read books related to the discipline plus it’s extremely near to nature.” The son mohar tree, potted plants and a shelf on the side catch our sweeping glance. Surely, the place did look cosy.
“My institution’s name ‘aamad’ is a Persian word and is a part of the dance repertoire too. It means the arrival of a dancer on stage. When I was a child, I was introduced to the word ‘aamadgi’; I loved the husky sound to it,” Dogra explains. Being passionate about the form, Dogra has conceived and driven the Samved Society for Performing Arts.
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Naa enters and touches the feet of her mentor, the topic veers towards how she has designed special short-term courses for film and television personalities. Dogra stresses that knowing how actors and models need to learn how to perform through their face, she teaches them abhinaya and rasas as was the scenario in the case of Ishita Sharma (who is a co-collaborator of the institute). The teaching will be closer to the Jaipur Gharana that stresses on rhythm work.
Dogra tells us that while teaching dance, she ensures that someone new to the dance form also learns by observing the seniors’ class. “In the bygone years, when conferences used to happen, it was either Ustad Bismillah Khan, Amjad Ali Khan or VG Jog who would perform after me. This is a way to give a junior artiste a different idea of the same stage.”
At Sangini House, 22, first floor, Aram Nagar 1, next to Hakim's Aalim, Andheri (W). Call 9930029265
On children learning the form
Dogra stresses that children below eight or nine years should not be enrolled in the Classical dance form. This is because stamping of the feet results in interference with the development of the bone structure, thereby making the dancer short in height and possibly, bow-legged.