Friday, 14 November 2014

Ipshita Misra on kathak and her legendary family (Deccan Herald, 2 Nov 2014)

Born to dance

Juanita Kakoty, Nov 2, 2014,
Stepping it up
Coming from a family of legendary Kathak exponents, Ipshita Misra has dance in her blood. The young dancer talks to Juanita Kakoty about her relationship with the dance form & sticking to traditions. Dh Photo
Ipshita Misra, scion of the Lucknow Gharana, carries quite a legacy. She is the granddaughter of Pandit Shambhu Maharaj, niece of Pandit Birju Maharaj, and daughter of Pandit Krishna Mohan Misra and Vaswati Misra. She is from a lineage that boasts of seven generations of Kathak stalwarts; hence, becoming a Kathak dancer was never a conscious journey because, as she puts it, “The moment I opened my eyes, I saw Kathak all around.” 

This exposure groomed her consciousness from an early age. “I’ve grown up seeing my parents, uncles and aunts engage with this dance form. As a child, even when I had not started any formal training, I learnt just by seeing them; I absorbed what I saw.” And the fruit of such inheritance is that Ipshita was only three-and-a-half years old when she performed on stage for the first time. It was at the Kamani auditorium in Delhi, in front of cultural icons from the world of classical art and music. “I performed at the Parampara Festival, which is conducted by the Lucknow Gharana. And following that performance, there was a time when this festival would start with my dance recital. I was a child and would be scared before a performance, but once on stage, all that fear would dissipate and I would just dance and dance.” Yet, she admits, she has had a normal childhood where there wasn’t much ruckus about training and practicing. “As a child, I loved to play and sing and be naughty! I love to be like that even now.”  

This young dancer, who practices alone but often goes to her parents as well as to Birju Maharaj for guidance, candidly confesses, “I love to learn, but I don’t like to teach.” She started formal training with her mother, Vaswati Misra, and then went to her mother’s guru, Rewa Vidyarthi, for training. Speaking about her uncle Birju Maharaj, she says that they share a warm relationship. “I often show him what I have been practicing and he makes corrections and follows up. I love visiting him. There is so much to learn just by listening to him. We discuss songs, his poems. He is also a good artist; some of his paintings are amazing.”

Flexibility & spontaneity
Talking of a memorable experience in her life, Ipshita remembers the time she performed a composition with her parents. “That was unique because my mother’s and my technique are almost the same. But father’s is different; it is more rooted in the traditional methods of the Gharana. His movements are in straight lines and the rhythm is fast-paced. While our movements have more of moulds; and we dance in slow, medium, fast rhythms.” She enlightens me about Upaj, a ritual that marks the beginning of a Kathak recital. “Upaj is improvisation. It is a spontaneous rendition. Upaj is neither composed nor rehearsed. I love it. It brings a great sense of freedom. Upaj is followed by Thaat, where the dancer comes to a pose with composure, which is then followed by Aamad, which literally means ‘to enter’ and the formal composition begins.” 

Ipshita continues, “What freaks me out is the kind of Kathak we get to see today. Contemporary Kathak comes on TV too; and I personally don’t like it. I feel one should not tamper with the basics and the essence of this dance form.” Listening to her, I could not agree more: Why contemporise Kathak at all, considering the flexibility and spontaneity Upaj allows? 

Ipshita performs her own compositions mostly, but has also performed her mother’s compositions. She says it is amazing how her father strikes a rapport with the audience and his accompanists when on stage. Ipshita, who loves to perform on thumris, says, “I try to emulate it.”  

Future dreams

Ipshita’s mother is currently running the Pandit Shambhu Maharaj Kathak Academy at New Delhi’s GK-2 neighbourhood. She says she has dreams of making this institute a much larger institution. “I want a building with not only classrooms, but also an audio-visual room where one can watch old videos of stalwarts, can read about them, hear about them, and their techniques. Because the more you listen, the better it is for a performer.” This dream resonates with the influences from her childhood. “I have never seen Pandit Shambhu Maharaj perform in person; but I grew up watching his videos at home. And that quite shaped who I am today, my dance.” She also wants to add a practice room which could somewhat give the feel of being on stage, to remove stage-fright in youngsters. As the conversation comes to an end, Ipshita, who is a member of Dhwani Repertory that preserves traditional dance and music, says, “Dance is my passion, my love. And I would only be glad if I could make people happy with my dance; if I could aid in preserving and making available the documentation already available on stalwarts from my family.”

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