KATHAK AS A SPRINGBOARD FOR CHOREOGRAPHY
by Madhu Natraj Heri
Natya Kala Conference 2001 - December 16
e-mail: stemdt@yahoo.com
Apr 2002

My association with Kathak seems inseparable from my existence as a dancer.

I remember absorbing bols and the sounds of the Ghungroos and tabla as a child and doing the padanth more like a game-tongue twister, than as an activity involving technical finesse.

It was only natural then that I took to Kathak as a profession. But somewhere along the way I deviated from dance and did work in the field of theatre, writing, visual arts… everything else!

When I did come back to dance after interfacing with contemporary dance, only then did I realise the potential in Kathak, the special quality that the form has. Under the constant guidance and encouragement of my Guru Smt. Maya Rao, I have assimilated my dance training in Kathak, Yoga, Limon technique and Indian martial arts. With these as my source material, I have been attempting to evolve a vocabulary that can be termed as Indian Contemporary dance.

My dancers come from various dance backgrounds and the regimen (training) followed at our center focuses a lot of attention on the technical and expressional aspects of Kathak. I do not belong to the school of thought that rejects tradition. In fact to me traditional dance, especially Kathak is a necessary part for the evolution of what can be called contemporary. My usage of the motifs of Kathak in Choreography will be demonstrated by video clips and live.

I have integrated elements of footwork, Upaj (improvisation). I have also experimented with rhythm, and Abhinaya, the essence of Kathak for storytelling, in all my choreographic endeavours.

I have worked with musicians, designers, filmmakers to integrate their creative thought process in my own work to come up with entirely new possibilities in my presentations. For instance, the excerpts from ‘Khoriya' - Wider than Echoes, a production which deals with facts of feminism, femininity and sexuality is a piece which features stories of women told by women in a vibrant, racy style-The Kathakaar resurfaces!
Madhu studied Kathak from her mother Maya Rao, from Chitra Venugopal and Munna Shukla. She graduated with distinction from the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography and trained in contemporary dance from Karen Potter at the Jose Limon Centre, New York. Madhu also did her post graduation in Journalism from the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. She has trained in folk and martial dances of India and studies the B.K.S Iyengar technique in Yoga. Presented by prestigious organisations, such as the ICCR (as a performing member of the Natya Institute of Kathak & Choreography), Madhu has performed at various cultural centres at National and International dance festivals. As Director of STEM (Space. Time. Energy. Movement) Dance Theatre and choreographer of the Natya Stem Dance ensemble, Madhu works with a team of eminent artistes, designers, dancers, and musicians exploring entirely new possibilities for productions.