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Sunayana Hazarilal: Better late than never
- Vijay Shanker, Mumbai
e-mail: vijaydance@gmail.com

April 13, 2012

A professional Kathak exponent for more than five decades, Sunayana Hazarilal was honoured with the Padma Shri last year. Sunayana is a stickler for perfection pertaining to traditional norms of the Gharana and her performances command the subtle nuances of both pure and expressional dancing. Sunayana maintains herself well with regular dance practice and also by workouts in the gym.

After a long lapse, Sunayana performed in Mumbai on 24th March at the Nehru Centre auditorium in a program organised by Natawari Dance Academy and supported by the ministry of culture, Government of India. Sunayana speaks about her dedication towards the classical dance style of Kathak and much more.

How were you initiated into Kathak dance?
My parents noticed my natural inclination towards dance, so I was enrolled in the Kathak class. Without realizing what I was learning, slowly my passion for the dance form grew and I started enjoying what I was learning.

What was the response from your parents?
They were happy about it but they never realized that one day I would make Kathak my life and my mission. I felt that the intricate work I had learnt from Guru Hazarilal of Benaras Jankiprasad Gharana would become extinct, if I did not seriously pursue Kathak with full devotion, so I had to take the decision right away.

At what point did you decide to devote yourself totally to Kathak?
My father was the railway commissioner and the job was transferable but I was adamant to stay on in Mumbai with my relatives, to continue my passion for dance.

 
 
 
When did you decide to marry Guruji?
As I mentioned earlier, besides me there was no other student who was as devoted. I realized that I had to spend more time with him and since he was unmarried, it was a wise decision.

Did you face any opposition?
Yes, my parents were shocked and did not talk to me for eight years, until my son was born. It was not easy but Kathak gave me a new life and a mission to live for.

Is that the reason you established your dance academy?
Yes, I established the Natawari Dance Academy but these days dedicated students are really rare. Male dancer Sandeep Songra is quite hard working, always willing to learn. It is a pleasure to teach such students.  My other students who performed on 22nd March included Shraddha Khanna, Anushka Jhaveri, Veronica Simas De Souza and Veda Joshi.

Are you on the teaching faculty anywhere else?
I head the Kathak section of Sangeet and Nartan Shiksha Peeth of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai and I am also on the visiting faculty of other institutions.

Which are the countries that you have performed in?
I have performed extensively in European and Asian countries and the United States too, taught the dancers from Ballet companies in Turin (Italy), Berlin (Germany), Antwerp and Brussels (Belgium), plus regular dance workshops in New York, San Francisco and Raleigh (USA). I was invited to teach in the dance department of UCLA in 1990.

What is the response you receive both in India and abroad?
In European countries, it is always a pleasure to perform but in India the response is rather mixed. In Mumbai, sometimes you get a crowd but at other times the audience turnout is limited. Strangely, the classical music scenario is better in Mumbai.

Do you feel that you have won the Padma Shri a little late?
Had I received the Padma Shri earlier, it would have boosted my enthusiasm as a performer, but   better late than never. I feel I am still in my prime as I continue to perform for prestigious festivals. I am happy with what life has given me, so no regrets whatsoever.  

Contact: sunayanah@gmail.com

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