Shama Bhate is a name synonymous with Kathak, and is uttered with a lot of respect, specially in the Kathak fraternity. Her in-depth knowledge of the dance form coupled with her yearning to constantly innovate and create something new, has led to the successful completion of 31 years of her institute, Nadroop. “I started my institute in 1987 on a very low key note, with the sole aim of imparting whatever knowledge I had gained at the feet of my guru,” says Shamatai humbly, adding, “When I started teaching Kathak with only three students, I didn’t have any ambition of establishing an institute. It was because I wanted to share my art with others and also the fact that I liked to teach.” As the number of students increased, Shamatai and her colleagues felt that it was time to give it a formal name, and so, Nadroop was registered in 1993.
Today Nadroop has successfully shaped careers of many of its students, not only in India but also abroad. Most of them have acquired a post graduate degree from various universities and as many as 12 have been awarded the HRDC National Scholarship (for senior students) and also CCERT scholarship for junior students. The credit for these achievements goes to Shamatai and her method of teaching. “I teach on a one-to-one basis while attending to each student’s individual weaknesses. I rely heavily on getting the technique perfect in terms of the footwork involved, the agility required and its aesthetics. I tell my students to develop their understanding of the aesthetics of Kathak individually, once they have grasped the correct technique,” explains Shamatai. This strict training methodology of hers is the reason for the perfect synchronisation seen in all of Nadroop’s performances.
Shamatai, with her dedication and hard work and her comprehensive understanding of Kathak and also other allied arts has managed to instill these same qualities in her students. Speaking about today’s generation, she is very positive and hopeful about them. “They are very intelligent and have the ability to pick up and learn things quickly and are also very sincere and hard working,” she says. She would like all of them to pay more attention to developing contacts in order to move ahead in their dance career.
Today, there are lot of dancers who are doing BA/MA in their respective dance styles and it is opening up different avenues in the field of dance for them to pursue. “This is a good thing as an additional degree on their resume means their chances of getting a job increase manifold, be it anywhere in the world,” feels Shamatai.
She further explains that doing these graduate courses exposes the students to various other subjects like music, literature. “Today there is a dearth of writers who can write on dance,” she laments. This learning inculcates the ability to think for themselves about a particular subject which the students can make use of in their own dance creations. The students of Nadroop have been very fortunate to have learnt and performed to numerous of choreographies of Shamatai, be it, Kasturba or Samvaad. The different subjects that Shamatai takes up also provide a great learning opportunity for the students of Nadroop.
The artist has initiated different projects with the view of widening the sensitivities and horizons of her students like dance therapy for God’s children, projects for rural children, mathematics and Kathak. It’s not surprising that with so many accomplishments to her name, Shamatai has been the recipient of numerous awards like the Maharashtra Rajya Puraskar (2011) and Kala Gaurav Puraskar by Kalanidhi (2013).
Even today she is enthusiastic to work upon her innovative ideas floating in her mind. “I want the new generation of Nadroop to handle the show now while I work on bringing my ideas to fruition,” says Shamatai happily.