KOCHI: Monisa Nayak is a true traditionalist when it comes to her art, someone not ready for any experimentation that will mar the purity of her dance form. At the same time, she is open to new themes, the very reason she took on the lines of Tagore, translating it to the language of kathak. “Tagore is a poet who created new taals. I took a few lines which explain varsha, the season of rains. I didn’t change the text or the music, but gave it a visual interpretation through dance,” says the kathak exponent.
Presently in the city for a workshop, the Delhi-based dancer says she always builds on the conventional format without disturbing the core of it. “You can’t tamper with the movements and expressions, but you can always interpret a new subject through your dance. You can take up any contemporary topic and present it in the form of kathak,” she says.
Another area she is particular about is the kathak costume. “I have seen many people taking it lightly and opting for an array of variations. But I think sticking to traditions is very important,” she adds.
Monisa followed the same rules for Swadesh, an innovative choreography that featured her along with Arushi Mudgal and Mythili Prakash. “Swadesh had three dancers representing three classical forms joining hands. We retained the purity of each form while merging the dances,” she says.
Coming from the Jaipur gharana of kathak, Monisa says the soul of kathak is same in all varients. “The rounds, thumri, abhinay, bol and footwork are all almost the same. But since they have developed in different places, you will find local influences. Jaipur gharana draws heavily from the dessert life. The floor there is not even, so they make it hard with water and then practise the footwork over that.”
During the time of Mughal empire, kathak was patronized by Muslim rulers and their particular style, a kind of softness, got into that. “This softness is the hallmark of Lucknow gharana, and Banaras gharana has some other distinctive features. Today kathak aspirants are very clear about which gharana they want to be,” she adds.
A very nuanced dance form, Monisa says it’s not easy to master kathak in a short span of time. “The first year will be easy, as most of the steps will be in the standing position. But after a handful of months, the real challenge begins.
It’s the stage when most students leave.” She adds that though kathak looks very simple and uncomplicated, like all classical arts it turns difficult the moment you enter into the depths of it.
“To reach the fastest speed with the right expressions is always a challenge,” she adds.