Watch the way her hand sways and her feet tap, one can feel the beauty of Kathak epitomised through her performance. Renowned Kathak and Odissi dancer Parwati Dutta was in Kerala recently to perform at the annual Monsoon Dance Music and Theatre fest and also to conduct a five-day dance workshop for students.
The 45-year-old dancer carries the enigma of an innocent child and ends every sentence with a cute giggle, yet the poise in her words cannot be missed. “Dance means everything to me; it is my support system to evolve, learn, reflect, contemplate and share. It is the epicentre of my existence and the only expression I know. Wherever I travel, I go with my dance, which has been my soul companion,” she begins.
Parwati is running an institution MAHAGAMI based in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. She is the founder-director for the last 20 years. The danseuse is highly impressed by the potential Kerala possesses. “Kerala is known to have nurtured and preserved heritage and culture, not for a purpose, but just for its cultural identity.”
So that makes me a little concerned because I see a lot of students learning dance or music just for temporary purpose. What we have learned from Kathakali, Kutiyattam and Mohiyattam gurus is the pure traditionalism they carry. Even as we evolve, it is important to maintain that purity,” explains Parwati. Known for her traditionalist and extensive research-based approaches to dance, she has initiated several inter-disciplinary projects that seek to preserve dance in its originality. She brings together Sufi artists and percussionists under the project Sahajak and documents them under the project Sangher.
Recently, she published her first graphic novel that introduces children to classical dance. “I have introduced nine of the major dances in the book, including Kathak, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Manipuri, Chhau and more. My idea is to create a good foundation for the next generation. What is happening now is that kids are more attracted to other things and so, they come to classical dance a bit later. I usually write research papers and all, but then I thought I should write something for kids. It should be something interesting, narrative and attractive with lovely illustrations so that kids fall in love with dance. It is in their formative years that they should be drawn to art. At present, it is published in Hindi and English. Now, we are working towards translating in Hindi, Marathi and Malayalam. We hope to release it before Vishu,” says Parwati.
Each dance form is introduced with short stories; the one on Kathak is from Mahabharata. Odissi begins with a small narrative of Jagannath Temple and for Mohiniyattam, it is the tale of Bhasmasur. The following pages have characters and memes of boys and girls practising different dance forms, which give different colours to the book. There are also mnemonic syllables which they can recite. The novel also describes the kind of costumes used, their meaning, vocabulary, the movement of the dancers, and so on. For example, the illustration of a Kathakali artist learning from the ashan (teacher) gives a regional flavour,” adds Parwati.
The dancer is all for natural blending of art forms as time evolves. “For instance, Kathak is a secular art; it has an element of the Hinduism, Islam and Sufism, but all the movements are natural. I find Kathak as a beautiful confluence of two different streams, faiths and aesthetics. Natural blending needs a lot of time and seasoning. But fusion is artificially mixing dance and has no identity,” she opines....