Written by: Mandavi Mishra
The first step towards a dream is always replete with challenges, and it was no different for Jatinder Arora Nayyar, whose love for Kathak began at the age of 11, during her first class in Dharamkot, a small town in Punjab. As the class ended, Nayyar knew that this is what she’d like to do for the rest of her life. But the joy was short-lived, as there were no teachers in the town who could help her to continue learning beyond the basics.
In 2010, Nayyar, now a mother of two and a science teacher, rediscovered her long-lost passion when she met Kathak teacher Deepak Arora. He would travel from Gurugram to Karnal once a week to teach Kathak and Nayyar decided to pick up her training from where she had left. Since then the dance form has been an integral part of her life. Now Nayyar is the director of Gurukul Music and Dance Academic Society, Chandigarh, which has its head office in Gurugram. “I am committed to rekindle the love for Indian classical dance and making learning accessible to people in Punjab, a chance I missed in my youth,” says 41-year-old Nayyar, whose guru, Deepak Arora, is a senior disciple of Pt Rajendra Gangani of the Jaipur Gharana. The gharana is known for its virtuosity and bhakti ras. The style is characterised by strong footwork and chakkars. “Kathak gave my life a new meaning. The dance helps one to understand life and connect with its many facets, with my guru teaching me how to innovate and discover a new element in every composition,” adds the dancer.
Talking about the influence of western music and dance on Indian traditional art forms, Nayyar says that her guru has always asserted the fact that varied influences add to our diversity and dance forms like flamenco and fusion blend seamlessly with Kathak. “Deepakji has always taught us that evolution is vital and as long as the core of a classical artform is strong, the tradition will never be diluted,” says Nayyar.
Arora and Nayyar have curated Smarami Deepak Kala Utsav, a festival that brings on centre-stage different Indian dance forms including Kathak. The larger idea is to connect elements of various classical dance forms and appreciate the nuances of each. The dance academy has grown organically over the last couple of years and is open to anyone above five years of age. “Art is for all and it doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender, age, caste or region. Our oldest student is 59 and Kathak has a different meaning for every individual. To some, it is like rhythmic yoga or a hobby, while for others it may be a professional choice or a passion. As a teacher, my aim is to take Kathak to the interiors of Punjab so that I, too, can be instrumental in nurturing talent,” says the dancer