Kishan Manocha, an Odissi Dancer, Anand Foundation

Kishan Manocha, an Odissi Dancer

Kishan Manocha has been teaching dance for the past 8 years. Currently he is teaching at Tagore Senior Secondary School, Elisabeth Gauba School and Kyari play school. He has his own dance studio in Rajouri Garden.

AS: What types of dance forms do you teach?
KM: I teach Bollywood, Contemporary, Jazz and Commercial Folk.

AS: Do these schools teach Classical dance as well?
KM: Yes, they do. It depends on the occasion though.

AS: Why did you start learning Odissi?
KM: Being a dancer, being in the market, I know that it is imperative to have a classical degree. Mostly boys opt for Kathak or Bharatanatyam. Boys rarely opt for Odissi. I wanted to do something different. So that’s why I chose Odissi.

AS: How long has it been since you’ve been learning Odissi?
KM: It has been three years.

AS: How did your family react to your decision of learning a classical dance form?
KM: They were more than okay. My father is a businessman but he never pestered me not to dance. He let me do whatever I wanted to. Whatever you do, do it properly. They come to watch my dance shows as well. They feel proud that their son is learning something nice.

AS: How difficult was it for you to understand the language of Odissi? You have been dancing, so you do understand body movement and expression but how different is Classical dance from Jazz or contemporary, apart from the visible differences?
KM: It is completely different. For instance, if you do Jazz, I listen to English music and listen to its beats closely. Odissi has its beats too but you do need to study to understand the classical world of dance. My guru, Madhumita ma’am has given me a lot of books to read. One has to study the theoretical aspect, the physical movements such as those of the eyes, head, hands, feet etc. But you have to study. It’s not too tough if you do it correctly.

AS: But because you are a dancer already, maybe it was easier to for you to get into the dancing regime?
KM: Yes, you are right. I find it slightly easier.

AS: Do you feel the form of Odissi is more suited to women and not men? Is it gender specific?
KM: No, I don’t feel so. Odissi is done by both boys and girls. This is a perception. Like in Kathak, boys do dance and their body language changes according to the needs of the dance form. It depends on how you interpret it. Now I do Odissi, Jazz, Bollywood. I am fluid and can slip in and out of the dance forms.

AS: I believe you are learning a dance piece where you are portraying the gopis and later on you’ll learn more where you will have to play the character of Radha. So do you think that’ll be a difficult task for you?
KM: You have to enter the dance space and get into the character. Now if I do Bollywood, I need it to be full of life and energy, if I do Odissi, I have to become a little soft, if I do Jazz, I’ll have to take close note of the clear lines, if I do ballet, then I need to be careful and aware of the hold and release. So for every dance, it’s different. You just have to be the character of the dance. Now for Odissi, I will do anything and everything that the dance demands. I can wear a bindi too. I can adapt to the needs of the dance and try my best to portray the character.

AS: Has anyone picked up classical dance for learning after watching you perform?
KM: Yes, my friend Shefali. She used to do Jazz and is a good folk dancer, realized that if she learns a classical dance, her movements will become better.

AS: Did you research before joining?
KM: Yes, I did. But I didn’t know ma’am and I was lucky enough to come to her. I didn’t have enough knowledge of Odissi before joining. But once I came here, I realized that Guruji is here. Odissi had four gurus and only Guru Mayadhar Raut is alive today. So I realized that I should learn Odissi from this school itself and not roam around and aimlessly search for a good guru when Guruji is here for us!

AS: Mayadhar Raut School of Odissi dance puts a lot of emphasis on Guru-Shishya Parampara. What does Guru-Shishya Parampara mean to you?
KM: According to my understanding, firstly, the style that we learn, we should follow just that and not adulterate it. Nowadays people who do folk have turned it into commercial folk. Even in Odissi, a lot of dancers have included external elements which are not intrinsic to the dance form. If we are learning Mayadhar Raut style, then we should solely stick to Mayadhar Raut style of Odissi dance and not commercialize it. Secondly, this school focuses more on the mudras, movements, expressions . So primarily, if we are a part of the Guru-Shishya Parampara, we must be honest to our guru’s style and strive to take it forward. Since the 1950s and 60s, our gurus have worked tirelessly for so long. The duty rests on our shoulders to take forward the culture and Odissi of our Guruji, Guru Mayadhar Raut and not commercialize it.

AS: Has classical dancing had any influence on your personality? Do you feel any change in you?
KM: Yes, my Guru ma’am also says that with classical dance learning, your soul becomes pure too. Now our generation doesn’t like to know the age-old knowledge but I want to know more and more. She also talks about ayurveda and general well-being and takes me closer to our culture. I like it. Being a human being, I feel I am improving.

AS: To learn a classical dance, you need to be patient. Do you think learning Odissi has mellowed you down and showed you the beauty of slow growth?
KM: I wasn’t patient before. Learning Odissi made me function with ease. What you can learn with ease, don’t rush it. Learning any art, any kala is a sadhna and it takes time. My friends are learning at a faster pace but my number of classes are also few. Whenever I have to get there, I will. Guruji didn’t approve of me when I went on the stage for the first time. But my Madhumita ma’am showed confidence in me. Whenever I perform, I know I am not perfect for it. But ma’am pushes and encourages me and I am getting better with every performance.

AS: What is your take on learning with a group? Is it better or would you prefer individual learning?
KM: Group learning is helpful as it helps you correct yourself as you watch the others dance.

AS: Lastly, what is Odissi to you?
KM: Odissi for me is a passion. Actually dancing is my passion. Like I told you, I want to go out and teach Odissi. So if I want to dance, I have to do it properly and diligently and strive hard to take it forward.