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Dancing and singing divine stories

richa-jainRicha Jain lives and breathes kathak. Trained in Hindustani classical vocal music also, she is among the few who exhibit the rare quality of divine dancing and singing simultaneously while presenting abhinaya (expressions) on thumri, dadra, ghazals, geet and more. This weekend, November 9, 2013, she will be performing Sufi compositions aptly titled Tere Ishq Nachaya, under the Kala Kunj umbrella.Born to dancer parents, Jain has been performing professionally since 2008. Her performances are a blend of three gharanas—Lucknow, Benaras and Jaipur. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Born to dancer parents, Jain has been performing professionally since 2008. Her performances are a blend of three gharanas—Lucknow, Benaras and Jaipur. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Kathak and Sufi…what stories are you telling in this performance?
Traditionally, Kathak originated from katha vachaks–storytellers. Keeping the traditional dance intact, my sister Radhika Singh and I and our group are performing Sufi compositions of Baba Bulle Shah and Abida Parveen. This is an attempt to express the mystical world of spiritual love and romance through kathak. There are five performances in all, two solos by my sister and me and three group performances. In fusion, we have never crossed the boundaries of classical kathak.

You are a vocalist and dancer, a quality rare today.
Traditionally, stories of gods and goddesses were told that way. And to be a performer, you had to be an artiste—know sculpture, painting, arts, and crafts. Singing and dancing, doing it the traditional way is a challenge I enjoy. I would like to prepare an army of more people who can do it this way. I can emote and express better.

Please tell us about your parents and gurus.
As both my parents, Late Guru Ravi Jain and Guru Nalini Malhotra Jain were dancers, my sister Radhika and I began dancing at an early age. My father was a disciple of Padmashree Shambhu Maharaj of Lucknow gharana and Alaknanda Devi of Benaras gharana. My mother trained under Guru Sunder Prasad ji and Guru Kundan Lal Gangani of Jaipur gharana. So we were lucky to have learned the best of all the three gharanas.Music, I have been training under Ajit Kumar Mishra and later groomed in Hindustani classical music under renowned Guru and exponent A. Maheshwar Rao of the Gwalior

Music, I have been training under Ajit Kumar Mishra and later groomed in Hindustani classical music under renowned Guru and exponent A. Maheshwar Rao of the Gwalior gharana.

Could you explain the three dance gharanas?
Each gharana has a USP. Jaipur gharana is popular for technical aspects, the Lucknow gharana is better known for abhinaya—the delicate touch and adakari, Benaras finds its forte in natwari bol—these were the sounds that reverberated from Lord Krishna’s feet at the time of kaliya daman. Since I learned all three, my dancing style is a blend of the three.

Did your parents belong to a family of dancers and musicians?
No, they are the first to venture into classical performing arts. My father was an electrical engineer with DVB and my mother a graduate from Lady Sri Ram College, her father had a defence background. I am a commerce graduate and post graduate; my sister is a HR professional. But I am focussed on running my school on dance and music.

How many students?
In the age group of 5-12, I have 10 dedicated students and then there are older people. I also teach an Australian belly dancer on skype. She was my father’s student and when he passed away last year, she continued with me. She says belly dancing is commercial but kathak is divine.

Your inspirations, besides your parents.
Pandit Birju Maharaj, Nahid Siddiqui is a Pakistani kathak dancer and singer, A. Maheshwar Rao.

You started performing solo after your post-graduation. Isn’t that a little too late for a dancer?
Actually, it’s not. It’s best to be a mature performer because when you are doing solos all the attention is on you. And every performance is a struggle to prove your worth. Even if there are ten people in the audience who know you, the eleventh has come for the first time.

Has the entire family ever performed together?
When my parents were performing, we were very young. But my parents have done the choreography for all the shows. Even the current show has been choreographed by them.

How much time goes into riyaaz?
I spend about two hours in the morning daily; my mother also does her riyaaz everyday. She is always working on compositions and choreography.

Balance between fusion, solo and groups.
You shouldn’t lose your identity. Solo showcases your talent and group requires strong teamwork. A group of 6-7 on stage is a good number.

 

Text by Ambica Gulati

 

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