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Kathak: a complete dynamic theater
- Reshmi Kaur Oberoi, NY

April 23, 2007

(Reshmi Kaur Oberoi won Honorary Mention: Dances of India - World Calendar in the Dance Essay Competition conducted by Cultural Centre of India, OH, on the topic "Why is being a dancer important to me.")

Kathak is a complete dynamic theater, not compromised to, but rather co-existed in the dance form which has made many more doors open, outside of the academic life of the dancer; myself. Perhaps 'Devdas' was the initial propaganda to popularize it, and perhaps the entrancing chakkars or the intimidating fast footwork, taal, was the spark to ignite a Kathak dancer's fire. Indeed, that would disguise the artist's realistic form. Perhaps the angarkha fascinated spectators' pupils as she spun her way into their hearts. This cryptic dance form has been cracked and there is a most complex answer that is only yet to be learned.

Kathak: An art form based on fast footwork and even faster pirouettes, with an element of storytelling or drama. The hastamudras (hand gestures), the poses, and even the walk of the dancer further filters into this narrative. The background music, in vocal or orchestral form, seams together the story that is accompanied by aharya, the artist's accessories and his / her makeup. And then there is my semantic of dance: The 'X' factor; Satvika is the eye movement and the whole feeling conveyed by the dancer. This feeling emanates anonymously from within and reflects through a human's natural expression. A dancer may forget to be human while dancing and may focus on the technicality of the actual dance. In contrast, when the dancer becomes human, her dance can convey even the most miniscule of stories. The "human" audience is keenly perceptive to such stories because they can relate to the story. This is the aesthetic self -actualization of a dancer.

Epiphany: My dance does in fact fit the ancient Kathak philosophical theory of "Katha Kahe So Kathak Kahaye." One who tells a story is a storyteller. Once I put on my ghungroos (dancing bells), fifty on each ankle, I lift off my feet and lose myself to the music in a euphoria that perhaps no one can feel unless they are on that stage and moving their feet in patterns at "tenth speed." Though my mother is from Puerto Rico, and my father is from India, language has never been an obstacle. This has only progressed my knowledge of Punjabi, Hindi, and even some Sanskrit. For once, as my dance teacher says, you can think with your heart and not your brain. This idea amuses me because I, infatuated with science and realistic ideas, would never think that a heart could be anything more than a cardiovascular muscle. However, Kathak is a stimulus that affects the body in its entirety.

Kathak is a truly unique and complicated dance that is mastered by the dancer who conveys the message of her dance. Bharatnatyam's poses, and Kuchipudi's high jumps, in my opinion, cannot compare to the beauty in any far-fetched story that is told through Kathak. Kathak signifies the importance of dance and is the revolutionary new way to communicate. Indeed, the "science" of dance is equivalent to the complex art of expressions found in dance.

Reshmi Kaur Oberoi is a student of 11th grade at Townsend Harris High School in NY, USA. She learns Kathak from Poonam Punj at 'For The Love Of Dance.'

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