Men dance to the tune of one woman.
By Aditi Rastogi
The workshop is an attempt to highlight, discuss and celebrate gender inequality in terms of strength, weakness, emotions, and areas of power through Kathak.
‘Kathak for him’ is the special workshop, where men can learn the specific footwork, bhaav, bol and body posture. “The main aim of the workshop is to introduce Kathak to people not only as a form of entertainment but as a life-changing experience” – says Aparna.
Woman’s Era talked to Kathak Guru Aparna Mishra to know more about the Workshop and Dance.
Tell us about the workshop ‘Kathak for Him’? How did you come about the idea?
It’s been 16 years of teaching Kathak. I’ve been meeting people from all walks of life, experiencing different psychology across gender, age, and different professions. I understand there is a taboo, that the classical format is mostly for the female. We tend to forget that Lord of Dance – Shiva in his Natraj form – was male!
I believe that dancing is an elementary part of our nature, but we fail to realise this because of our prejudices and fast mechanical life. Physical, mental or emotional, it liberates you of all the barriers, within you, around you.
It helps you connect to your own pattern, your own rhythm of life. Be it arts, science, nature, and astronomy, everything has a pattern.
Our society still practices gender-based inequalities, socially and behaviourally. An effort to break this mindset led to the discovery of ‘Kathak For Him.’ In the fight to prove the superiority of one gender over the other, we have forgotten to enjoy gender uniqueness.
Yes, the maker of a man is different from a woman’s and vice-versa. However, does that mean either should be considered strong or weak?
The workshop ‘Kathak For Him’ is an attempt to highlight, discuss and celebrate gender inequalities in terms of strength, weakness, emotions, areas of power and delicacy through Kathak.
We appreciate equality. So, let’s also appreciate and celebrate, not shy away from these inequalities – the way nature has made us.
It is a unique 90-minute workshop, using a series of male-specific foot work, Bhaav, Bol and Body posture. Understanding male psychology, a majority of them are attracted towards numbers and logic. I have tried to use non-dancing elements from mathematics – like Golden Ratio Theory to define male beauty and the Fibonacci series (a mathematical pattern prevalent in nature). I have come up with a 10-minute performance where music is mathematically following the Fibonacci series, expanding itself in a pattern, nature personified as a human. This way, all the men can relate to it and find a comfort zone in the Indian classical dance form of Kathak.
I will dance different shades of nature – the mother, the protecter, the destroyer – expressing and highlighting the male and female emotions. It leaves a social message as well.
The second performance is the Hanuman tandav, expressing different shades, emotions and characteristics of men, again leaving a social message.
The target of this workshop is to introduce kathak to masses not only as a form of entertainment but as a life-changing experience. This will help to break the stereotypes about dance and liberate.
Kathak is considered an art form for women today. Has kathak traditionally been a dance for women or is this today’s perception?
The story of Kathak begins in ancient times with the performances of professional storytellers called Kathakas who recited or sang stories from epics and mythology with elements of dance. The traditions of the kathakas were hereditary and dances passed from generation to generation. The emphasis has never been laid on gender. The central point has always been storytelling – in an expressive, dancing style.
From history till date, there have been many noted male kathak dancers. However, not just Kathak, most classical dance forms are considered to be a female territory amongst men. Raas by Lord Shri Krishna, or Shiva’s tandav are male-specific dances. Why should the current urban male be any different from these gods whose lives have been so inspiring?
Did you face any challenges in starting this Kathak for Him endeavor?
Challenging yes, but rather I would call it interesting. I never tried to force the dance form on men. I have always tried to make the form sound little attractive to them, so that they get inquisitive and indulge in it.
There are men who do find dancing to be a gender issue. Some may find it a social issue, and some would have a genuine comfort, will and skill issue that it does not interest them. Handling such mindsets has been a great experience. To do something new and real, we have to think out of the box.
Since Western dance forms are gaining prominence, what is the future of Kathak?
Western dance, as a format, has gained prominence, as it is easily available and easy to indulge in, though it has its own set of rules, systems, and styles. Classical dance is more psychological, systematic, and an educational pattern covering variety and vastness.
To let people of all ages, different mindsets, professions, religions, and backgrounds indulge in it through innovative workshops like this will redefine the future of Kathak.
Imagine, school kids learning mathematics through Kathak, or learning the lessons of literature, history, mythology, moral science through Kathak! This is a future I owe to this beautiful dance form and hope to see that happening soon.
Today’s generation is keener on learning western dance or western music compared to traditional forms. How can we steer them to our beautiful indigenous dancing forms?
I always advise parents to allow their child to be introduced to dance and music through a classical format to have a strong foundation. It develops a unique character, systematic approach towards learning, exposure to our cultural heritage and roots and of course, a feeling of self-confidence. A little innovation makes the form easily understood, acceptable and interesting to the young generation.