Grace personified

Amrita Prasad
Tuesday, 30 January 2018

We chat up Kathak exponent Prerana Deshpande, whose Nrityadham School of Performing Arts is completing 25 years. On this occasion, a special dance programme will be held in the city on Saturday

She is an epitome of grace, beauty and elegance and even after decades of learning, performing and teaching Kathak, Prerana Deshpande is enthusiastic and full of reverence while speaking on the dance form and her gurus.

We met her at her spacious apartment in Aundh and the interiors of the house reflected her fine aesthetic sense. Dressed in a simple salwar kameez with a shawl draped around her, Deshpande sat down to speak to us about dance, the new generation of dancers and more.

“Today the young Kathak dancers are extremely talented and sharp. They are looking at the business aspect of the dance form and know well how to associate it with commerce. I was never taught this nor did I ever look at my art in this way. With the power of internet, youngsters are exposed to so much information, which we didn’t have access to. They are fast learners and have an amazing grasping power as compared to our generation of dancers,” said Deshpande.  

The Kathak exponent has been popularising the dance form and widening its repertoire without tampering with the classical framework, through her academy Nrityadham School of Performing Arts. Established in 1993, the academy has completed 25 years and on the occasion of its silver jubilee year, a special dance programme titled ‘Space’ has been organised at Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha on Saturday (February 3) at 7.30 pm. Her students will be presenting dance pieces like Tala Mala and Srijan Ensemble.

Deshpande, who began learning the dance form at the age of seven under Guru Sharadini Gole, the seniormost and one of the first disciples of Guru Pt Rohini Bhate, and later also got to learn from Rohinitai herself, defines her journey in the field as both beautiful and adventurous. “I feel satisfied and happy that I chose the right path on which an artist should move ahead. My guru always wanted us to follow and understand it. I believe true learning is not just about the dance and learning its technicalities, but it has a lot to do with knowing how your guru thinks, perceives and reflects. I have been fortunate that I continued to learn from a single guru (Sharadiniji was Rohinitai’s student) throughout my life and passing on and imbibing the same thought process which I still carry,” said Deshpande. She urged the new crop of classical dancers to continue to learn from a guru for a longer time.
Talking about the guru-shishya relationship, the dancer said that every artist’s presentation should be his or her own. “Indian classical art is personal. I have learnt that every artist’s presentation should be his or her own. In their presentation, the sanskar of the guru and their own expression must be seen. Therefore, instead of trying to imitate my gurus, I am making constant efforts to move ahead on the path of ‘thinking’, ‘vision’ and ‘art’,” she said.
Deshpande, who has completed her Master’s in Kathak (she stood first in the then Centre of Performing Arts of Pune University) and also has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, combines the two diverse disciplines. When asked about it, the dancer said, “Both these disciplines are not separate. I have often lectured and demonstrated that mathematical concepts like ‘time cycle’ and various types of ‘tihaai’ calculations, can be associated with intricate taal related prominent composition patterns in Kathak.”
She also believes that classical dance is not for pure entertainment or just for visual delight. It is very deep. “Classical dance is meant for intellectual and spiritual happiness along with entertainment. Hence it is not easy to assimilate or understand. However, to know and enjoy the art, one must understand it first. While performing abroad, I ensure that brochures carrying details about the dance form, the theme, concept and choreography, are placed on the seats of the audience. Thus they are aware what they are going to witness during the performance. It helps them understand the art and appreciate it better,” she said and concluded.

Nrityadham’s Space will be performed at Yashwantrao Chavan on Saturday (February 3) at 7.30 pm onwards. Entry is free.

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