In My View:
Preserving integrity in Kathak
By Uma dogra
Moved at a young age by innate rhythm in life, Uma was a natural for dance. Guru Pt. Durga Lal made full use of her potential and zeal. With a huge number of honors and awards bestowed on her, there is no national stage where she has not performed. Her institution Samveda Society dedicated to her Guru trains students in finesse of Kathak, holds workshops and organizes dance festivals.
Trained by some of the great masters in the three basic aspects of Kathak - Gaayan, Vaadan and Nartan - Pt. Durgalalji was a complete dancer. An artiste of unusual merit and rare qualities. Born in 1948 in Mahendragarh, Rajasthan, his initiation into the world of art was through Hindustani Classical Music, which he learned from his father Pt. Omkar Lal ji. He later received the training of Pakhawaj from Pt. Purushottam of Nathdwara, and acquired proficiency in playing the Pakhawaj as well as the Tabla. When his elder brother Pt. Devilal moved to Delhi in the early fifties and started learning Kathak from Pt. Sunder Prasadji he decided that his eight-year old brother Durgalal should also take up dance as a career. Durgalal ji started learning Kathak from his own brother; later, the brothers secured scholarships to study Kathak at Bhartiya Kala Kendra from Pt. Sunder Prasadji. Both the brothers stayed in a tiny place where they could barely stand properly. But that did not deter Pt. Durgalal ji from practicing for hours and hours.
I have heard from him the tales of devotion fighting in face of hardships. I tell my young students that greatness is only the expression of your soul. It is only through constant re-examination of one's strength of purpose that the student is able to master first his self and then his art.
Ambition, like all other human characteristics, is tricky. Up to a limit it strenghtens the soul, after that it starts corroding it. Many promising dancers give up the fundamental principles of their art to seek material gain. They think that a bit from Lucknow kathak when mixed with a little of Jaipur with flashes from Odissi and Bharatnatyam would end in an original dance-form, they are befooling themselves. I too have had training in different schools -- in Lucknow from none else than Pt. Birju Maharaj ji and in Jaipur from Pt. Durgalal ji. But in my performance or composition it is only inspiration of my Guru-s that integrates the two schools; else I follow plain Lucknow or pure Jaipur as taught by mentors.
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