Everything in the universe has a rhythm that inspires me to dance: Chandrayee Bhattacharyya
Chandrayee Bhattacharyya is one of the accomplished Kathak dancers who resides in Seattle area since past 16 years. Her dance style is from the "Lucknow Gharana". She has been trained under Guru Parimal Krishna since she was 6 years old. She thanks her mom to introduce her to Kathak and instill discipline and patience to learn dance in her early childhood. She obtained her degree from Prayag sangeet samiti, Allahabad. Chandrayee's passion for dance slowly led her to experiment with various other dance styles across the globe. She has many followers and students across UK, US and India. I recently had a golden opportunity to catch her between classes on an early Saturday morning. A very bubbly and energetic Chandrayee talks about Kathak and modern lifestyle in this candid interview.
What is Kathak according to you? Is it for everybody?
Dance is an outlet for your inner voice. Like your heart dances with its own rhythm. The main thing that any classical dance does to you is that it helps attain balance between your mind and heart. Also riyaaz (practice) is an integral part of any art form. It helps you teach self discpline and time management both. Whatever age you are you can learn Kathak. I still see myself as a student as I always strive for more knowledge. My thirst for learning about new things never dies. I have seen many people who have achieved perfection in their respective fields and have considered themselves gurus but eventually, they never learned beyond what they knew.
You are an inspiration for so many dancers across various generations. How do u manage your schedule?
Every few days, I find myself travelling to other cities, and sometimes I lose track of where I am. But I pray daily, which is a meditative experience. Wherever I am, I eat very simple food vegetables and keep my focus on my dance. Kathak is one of the ways to connect to inner peace. It is also called a sadhana. I tell my students, to imagine that each time they strike a pose let their eyes feel the power and the emotion. I believe there is an inherent bhakti (devotion) in the dance. When dance is done with that emotion, it takes us away from our daily stress and connects us with divine experience.
In this age of internet, there are lots of online videos and training available. What are your views on this?
While the impact of internet is undeniable, true learning happens only with a true relationship between teacher and student. I am old school in this matter and believe in Guru-Shisya parampara. Time could be an issue for many people to learn but like any other art form, passion is important with patience. I use a combination of the traditional parameters with other international dance forms to choreograph new presentations. I want people to see that even classical style can be very appealing, interesting and dignified.
What are the qualities of a good dancer?
Dance is a wholesome art. Sur (note), taal (beat), bhav (expression) and laya (rhythm), an in-depth knowledge of all these aspects is vital, even if one is weak, your education is incomplete. Laya is especially important; a dancer must be perfect in his laya, to bring the necessary grace and synchronization in the dance. Without it, dance is not possible.
With so many movies using Kathak style of dancing in their songs which one is your favorite piece?
You will be surprised the modern day movies are nowhere close to top performances of Kathak I have seen in my life span. The beauty and depth of Kathak in several movies has been successfully portrayed by one and only Birju Maharaji. A great example of the dance in cinematic medium will be in the movie The Chess Players (Shatranj Ke Khilari) of year1977. When you go home today please do watch the song Kanha main tose Hari. It is a wonderful classical song by Birju Maharaj ji with excellent performance by Saswati Sen. Another must see video is of Roshan Kumari's famous Kathak sequence from Satyajit Ray's classic Jalsaghar. I feel so blessed to be able to appreciate and learn from these great dance styles and performances during my graduation years.
Soon the room started getting filled with curious eyes of all the women patiently waiting to start their class. I stepped down from the stage at Bahai center in Bellevue to enjoy the budding dancers sow their seeds of learning in the nursery of their Guru' Chandrayee Bhattachrya who they respectfully call Didi (elder sister).
I am a writer by choice, photographer by chance and a wellness expert by profession . Every aspect of my work has been inspired by simplicity which I consider as ultimate sophistication.
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