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Why kathak is beyond compare & competition
- Padma Shri performer & guru Shovana Narayan debunks theory of classical-western dance conflicts

Dance reality shows or salsa and hip-hop can’t erode the enduring appeal of classical dance, feels kathak prima donna Shovana Narayan.

Winner of Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi and numerous global awards, Narayan was in Ranchi on Wednesday for the third time as part of her programmes with Spic-Macay (Jharkhand chapter) to popularise Indian culture in educational institutions.

Striking in her purple sari, jewellery and trademark kohl-lined eyes, Narayan stepped out of the car at the arts block of Ranchi Women’s College to the warm welcome of principal Manju Sinha and others and described Ranchi as “very close to my heart”.

Her hour-long afternoon performance, marked by electrifying footwork and eternal elegance, held the audience of college girls in thrall. “It’s an honour to see her perform on our campus. Now, we know why she is a living legend,” said second-year history honours student Natasha Kumari.

This vibrant engagement with youths across the country gives Narayan hope for kathak.

“Kathak is not in competition with western or fusion dance,” she said confidently. “Yes, I agree that with fusion getting popular, new steps are sometimes included in kathak, but we are not losing its original form.”

Kathak has for long been a Bollywood staple. But the current flavour of popular cinema and reality shows seems to be western dance and its derivations. Does that worry her?

“Any form of dance, be it classical or western, has the power to bind people together from different parts of the world,” said the danseuse.

Asked if young Indians appreciate kathak, she smiled. “My students are young too. All age groups appreciate this classical North Indian dance form. Perfection and accuracy are its hallmarks,” she added.

It reminds one of the physics student Narayan once was. And not only does she have a masters in physics, she also has two MPhil degrees, one in defence and strategic studies and second in social sciences and public administration. The globetrotting danseuse, married to diplomat Herbert Traxl, has also balanced a hi-profile bureaucratic career (IAS, 1976 batch) with aplomb.

With her stature as a performer of international repute, Narayan tries to use kathak to spread values among youngsters.

She injects epic elements to make Indian mythology come alive in her performances for youngsters.

Performance apart, she treats kathak as a sadhana — act of devotion — and teachers her students to do so too.

And this passion is not just limited to kathak.

“If you love something, pursue it with honesty and full devotion. If you take your profession as burden, you will fail to do justice to it,” Narayan said, striking a chord with GeNext.

Narayan, who started dancing since she was two-and-a-half years old, confessed she had her greatest critic at home. “My son Ehsaan,” she quipped.