In conversation with Uma Sharma, a Kathak dancer

Dance style: Kathak
Gurus: Pt Sunder Prasad of the Jaipur Gharana and Pt Shambhu Maharaj of the Lucknow Gharana.

About Kathak
Folk Tradition of Raas Leela – Raas Leela has been playing a very important role with Kathak, therefore they are very closely related with each other. Kathak developed from folk, Raas Leela has been the original form of Kathak. There is a lot of similarity between Kathak and the Raas tradition, the rhythmic music patterns and the pirouettes. Raas Leela is what Krishna did and in Kathak dancers perform for Krishna.
Abhinaya – Abhinaya has been my forte, I learnt it from Abhinaya Chakravati Guru Shiv Shambhu Maharaj of the Lucknow Gharana. He told me that I was good in Bhav and believed that I will continue his tradition. I feel Abhinaya is very difficult even more than pure dance.

Q How is Kathak different from other styles ??

The very style, presentation, the music, all of it is different from the other styles. It cannot be expressed verbally you have to see a Kathak performance.

Q Any format or repertoire ??

I follow the traditional form of Kathak dance, whether it involves the rhythmic or Abhinaya side of Kathak I believe in traditional dance but I’ve involved poets such as Ghalib, Tagore, Bacchan, Kaifi Azmi and other contemporary poets and I’ve also seen that Kathak is very subtle and I like to keep it that way. I compose dance on the poetry by seeing the text and emotions and it is within the framework of Kathak. There is no particular order of items as such in Kathak.

Q Kathak has been associated with films and Kothas and other undesirable environment.

Some films have been actually very good, like Mughal e Azam, Pakeeza, Umrao Jaan etc and some of the actresses have danced very beautifully like Meena Kumari and Vaijyanti Mala has always been so graceful and dignified. The presentation of Kathak in Pakeeza was actually the way Kothas were, the dancer sits and explains the Bhav and then dances. However in some films they show extremes and make it very vulgar that is absolute rubbish.

Some films have been actually very good, like Mughal e Azam, Pakeeza, Umrao Jaan etc and some of the actresses have danced very beautifully like Meena Kumari and Vaijyanti Mala has always been so graceful and dignified. The presentation of Kathak in Pakeeza was actually the way Kothas were, the dancer sits and explains the Bhav and then dances. However in some films they show extremes and make it very vulgar that is absolute rubbish.

Yes most of the time. When I go into deep Abhinaya, I get into ecstasy, I get lost, I don’t even know who is sitting in front of me or where I am, I completely am into it and when I come back to this world its miserable.

Q What is required from a student to be a good Kathak dancer ??

More dedicated than ambitious, the willingness to learn more than perform should be present. I dislike students who want to learn very fast just to perform. As when I was learning from my gurus I never expected anything from anyone, it was my hard work and tremendous dedication that brought me to this stage and that’s what I expect from the students. We are here to teach and will teach with wholeheartedness only if the student is prepared. Dance wise the student should have grace, a good Physique and stage presence.

I am open to my students living with me. I believe in the Guru-Shishya Parampara.

Q How did Innovation begin ??

I was fascinated by the poetry; my father who was a scholar in Sanskrit was a great inspiration for me. He would write poetry in Sanskrit, which were very inspiring. After my father my Gurus have been a source of inspiration.
I have been very creative in Kathak. For instance Stree (woman) my production has been very powerful and innovative, I have also created number of other ballets, which have also been appreciated by the audiences. They always felt I came up with something new every time.

Q Suggestion for young artists

They should know which Guru they can work with and how hard can they work. They should be more dedicated. If the learn beautifully and work hard they can definitely take it up as profession. The attitude of learning to become an over night star should be done away with.

Uma Sharma is the Director of Bhartiya Sangeet Sadan – Uma Sharma’s School Of Dance And Music and has been awarded the title of PADMA BHUSHAN. She is one of the foremost exponents of the Kathak Form of Indian Classical Dance.Vivacious, versatile and internationally known Uma Sharma is a name to contend within the Dance world today.

She is a recipient of the prestigious national awards such as the Padmashree, The Sangeet Natak Akademi Award & the Sahitya Kala Parishad Award for her contribution to the Kathak Dance form.

For further information contact:
Bhartiya Sangeet Sadan
Uma Sharma’s School Of Dance And Music
52, Community Centre
East of Kailash, New Delhi 110065
Phones: (011) 26432998 / 26431978
Fax: (011) 26225332
E mail: umakathak@rediffmail.com
Website: http://www.uma-sharma.com