Kathak with a new spin

Kathak dancer Shoma Kaikini and her students will take to the stage for their annual event Pratibimb, which will include a melange of Kathak moves choreographed to Sufi and folk compositions

For Kathak dancer Shoma Kaikani, dance is synonymous with emotion. So, despite learning Bharatnatyam from the age of 10, she felt a "connection" with Kathak and started training by herself in the dance form.

She also went on to train under Nandita Puri (from the Jaipur gharana of Kathak) and eventually started her dance school Nrityanidhi in 2005.

Shoma Kaikini and 11 of her students will perform at Pratibimb,
which will include Kathak dance steps on Folk and Sufi compositions

"The USP is our focus on experimentation and flexibility. While we do teach the classical aspect of Kathak, we also incorporate different genres of dance and music in the curriculum.

We believe that you can't break the rules if you don't know the basics so we teach the basics of choreography and encourage the students to break free and do their own thing," says Kaikini. Over the years, the institute has gained fame for performing a blend of Kathak with Bhajans, Ghazals and light Classical music.

Mixing genres
This weekend, Nrityanidhi is hosting the sixth edition of Pratibimb, their annual dance event. On the cards is a combination of Kathak choreographedto soulful Sufi and folk music.

Kaikini admits that she has been planning the event for the last nine months. "We zeroed in on the theme due to the range of emotions these songs convey. According to me, movement should come from the way you feel.

The compositions speak of pain in life, heartbreak and a surrender to the higher power and while most of them are popular film songs, we chose them based on the feelings they evoke.
They may not be pure Sufi or folk songs but they embody the essence of the philosophy and have the magical and mystical elements that characterise the forms of music," she adds.

The hour and a half long event will feature a line-up of songs such as Sajda (My Name Is Khan), Maula Mere (Anwar), Ajj Din Chadheya (Love Aaj Kal), Dil Hun Hun Kare (Rudaali) as well as Abida Parveen's version of Chhap Tilak.

Kaikini admits that the selection of the songs and choreography was the most time consuming while sets and costumes were secondary concerns. "People come to watch the dance; the focus should, hence, be on the performance. We keep the sets and costumes very minimalistic."

Kaikini admits that she was initially apprehensive about experimenting with traditional dance forms.

"I invited my guru (Nandita Puri) for a Nrityanidhi performance and I was worried about whether she would appreciate the innovations. But she loved it and that was reassuring for me," she reminisces.

Express yourself
Nrityanidhi's dance troupes are often all women affairs and Kaikini says there's a reason behind it. "I always wanted to teach women primarily because they tend to bottle up their emotions.
They are busy playing so many roles (daughter, wife and mother) and are taught never to express their feelings openly. I remember students who could not express the feeling of anger required for a certain piece of dance. That's where dance can help liberate them and channelise their emotions in the right direction," she observes.

While experimentation and expression may be the hallmarks of Nrityanidhi, Kaikini stresses that it's not a matter of fusion.
"We aren't showcasing disparate elements such as East meets West; we are seamlessly blending different forms of music and dance. By the end of it, you will feel like these songs were meant to be danced to this form," she concludes.

On October 30, 5 pm onwards
At Ravindra Natya Mandir, Mini Auditorium, near Siddhivinayak Temple, Prabhadevi. cost Rs 250 onwards and are available at Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda and

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