A few years ago, when Katya Tosheva stared at the computer in her office cubicle, what reflected was a bored, tired and unhappy version of herself. Everything was mechanical and not-so-charming events were going around her. But, when her husband introduced her to a local yoga teacher, she started feeling curious about it, and eventually decided to go on a spiritual trail, which would change her entire life.
Through yoga, she came to know about India — its culture, cuisines, colours, epics and art. “After spending 13 years in front of the computer, I realised what I wanted in my life. I didn’t have to think twice before quitting the job as an engineer that filled my wallet well, but left my soul empty,” says Katya. Sitting at her apartment in the city of Sofia, she told her family about her passion to learn Indian classical arts and travel to India. Incidentally, the two streets on the sides of her apartment are named after Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru!
Fast forward to five years, she is an expert in classical dance forms including Kathak, Odissi and Bharatanatyam, and tours around Bulgaria and often visits India to perform. She also continues learning the artforms from her beloved gurus. But, it was not a cakewalk for her. For many in the world, India is synonymous with Bollywood. The colours, jovial songs and drama of Bollywood are associated with the country more than anything else. After getting an idea about India, she started learning the ‘Bollywood dance’. “It was mere Indian type of dancing that we see in movies. We dance for Bollywood songs. It actually was not that hard to learn. But later, I found out there is much more in Indian art and Bollywood is very, very little of it.”
She came to India along with her husband, Rosen Genkov, whom she calls her biggest inspiration. They set off a long journey covering major cities in South India. Katya runs out of words when talks about her first trip. “I began to love this country once I started the trip. When my yoga teacher showed me a video of Indian classical dance, I was like ‘this is not possible for a human’. They were so agile. Coming to India and talking to experts under whom I was going to learn was even more amazing.”
At the moment, along with her performances, she learns Kathak under the tutelage of Guru Ravi Shankar Mishra in Varanasi, Odissi at the Sanjali Centre for Odissi Dance n Bangalore with Guru Sharmila Mukherjee and Bharatanatyam at Nada Brahma Nrityala School with Nivedita Badve.
During her training, she had private lessons and attended many workshops by teachers including Swati Tiwari, Vidha and Abhimanyu Lal, Christinaa Zanni and Saraswathi Rajathesh. She was interested in other dance styles like American tribal style, tribal fusion, flamenco, contemporary and jazz ballet, too.
She underwent two years’ training in Bulgarian folklore dances under the famous Bulgarian dancer and choreographer Peter Netsov. Katya grasped the structure of North Indian classical music with the help of Stefan Hristov, who trains her in North Indian taal (rhythm). Hristov later became her husband’s tabla guru. “Learning the basics of taal from him was really helpful. Learning Sanskrit is a part of my education, too.”
She gives yoga all the credits for changing her life forever and making her a better person. “I was not the same person before I learned yoga. It also helped me in preparing my body and mind to learn classical dance.”
She believes that knowledge is power and knowledge shared is power multiplied. Her initiatives at her home country substantiate that. “In the city of Sofia, I teach at 79 Indira Gandhi Secondary School, the only school that is very much connected with Indian culture. Besides, I started an Indian dance school called Kaya and conduct regular classes for both adults and kids in the two biggest Bulgarian cities, Sofia and Plovdiv. I had been invited twice to Serbia to share my knowledge and experience in Indian arts.”
In an effort to mark her love for India, she conducts monthly dance workshops and lectures about Indian culture in many parts of the country. She has been performing around the world for some years and won the first prize in a dance competition in Pune. Her husband, who plays tabla, hopes to associate with her in her performances soon.
Katya used to volunteer for giving care for refugees and kids without parents. Though she has not been able to continue it due to travels and performances, she is hopeful that she could help more people. Katya says she has a lot to achieve as an artiste and believes she has found the right path as a person.