When did you begin your study of Kathak with Chhandam?
I began learning Kathak at Chhandam in 2002 when I was five years old. My older sister Rasika was already taking classes at Chhandam, and she really enjoyed it. I used to watch her practice and was very excited to join as well.
When did you join the CYDC?
I joined the CYDC in 2008, the sixth year since its inception.
How has your study with Dadaji most affected your life?
I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from Dadaji as part of Youth Company. He inspired so much confidence in us and he believed that each one of us could rise up to our potential. He taught us so much more than just dance. Dadajii encouraged us to learn more about our culture, to connect with our heritage. During class Dadaji would open our minds, posing questions about the arts and education and he would encourage us to expand our horizons. Often Dadaji would say, “you come alone you go alone,” and “life is upaj, improvisation” with a twinkle in his eye. As I go on to college, his words and his teachings will stay with me.
What has changed over the last five months for you as an artist?
As I’ve prepared for my solo in the last five months, dance has become a much larger part of my life. I realized that it is not only important to learn the dance but also to study it and go deeper into the art form. In addition to my practice, I’ve explored the evolution of kathak dance, the history of Indian Classical music, and the mythology behind the stories I will be depicting in performance. I’ve dug deep within myself. Dadaji always used to say that knowledge of kathak goes beyond just dance – it requires understanding of history, mathematics, philosophy, and music.
You’ll be graduating high school this year. Where will you go to college and what do you think you will pursue?
I’ll be going to the University of Southern California with a Presidential Merit Scholarship. I will be pursuing an engineering degree in Computer Science. I am really excited to be going to Los Angeles! It is such a vibrant city with incredible opportunities in the arts.
What advice do you have for all the young dancers who are studying Kathak with Chhandam or considering it?
Believe in yourself, with practice, you can do it! I remember when I was a little girl I couldn’t land the twenty-seven chakkars. Dadaji said, “If not today, you will get it tomorrow!”
Start developing a riyaaz, and every time you practice work on perfecting something that is difficult.
Do what gives you happiness and really put your heart into it.
What is the most valuable thing an organization like Chhandam can give to the youth in its community, whether they are dancers or not?
Chhandam brings people together to celebrate and preserve Kathak dance. We are lucky to have organizations like Chhandam that continue to educate, promote, and preserve Kathak and other cultural art. Our generation is fortunate to have exposure to such ancient art forms and experience their evolution, and it is a gift that we will share with the next generation.
Any thoughts you would like to share with your fellow YC members,
Thank you so much for your love, support, and encouragement through the years.