This training, discipline with blazing passion is very much reflected in her performances

Natch – Kathak is not just dance, but a dance company

6 - Kathak Dance Classes in Auckland | Kathak Dance company

Purnima Garg

Natch-Kathak Dance company is a collaboration between Sargam School of Indian music and Purnima Garg. Established recently, this platform has been brewing since last year, crusted with an ambitious plan in Purnima’s mind, finally coming into action with alacrity. She has had her training at the National Institute of Kathak – Kathak Kendra, New Delhi for over a decade and with a diploma.

This training, discipline with blazing passion is very much reflected in her performances. Be it her performance in Auckland Diwali festival in 2019, where she performed a Kathak Dance cover with Sargam school musicians on Madhuban Mein Radhika Nache Re (1960, Kohinoor) or her latest dance moves with Kesha Surti on Chale Jaise Hawayein (2004, Main Hoon Na), which has gone viral on social media crossing over two million views on Instagram itself.

Giving credits to the power of social media in modesty, she does not know that her love for dancing and making it not just any Bollywood recreation takes her an extra mile ahead.

Accountant by profession, this lass has command over her performance by keeping her dance form – Kathak in her soul, confidence beaming in every move she makes, her dedication to train her students with nothing less than perfection shows that Purnima will not just stop here, she has a bigger plan.

We caught up with her to know about this and asked to give us a sneak peek on what Natch-Kathak is all about.

1.What does dance mean to you?

Dance is something which just makes me feel happy, whatever is happening in the world, I know when I dance it makes it better. It has an emotional side too for me, of course if I am frustrated or angry about something, dance is like a therapy, more precisely a routine for me. If I didn’t dance, I would be cranky, you will not want to sit with me. Yea dance is everything!

8 years of degrees/courses from the institute, I am still learning. Today also I am in touch with my Guruji (teacher), we still have our zoom classes where I am still taught this art through dance performances.

Every time a student comes and asks me how long it will take me to learn Kathak, I am like – there is no limit! It’s just like you must grasp as much as you can. I started when I was in school, attending class 6th or 7th (Secondary school in New Zealand). Been actively doing this from the last 12-13 years.

2. Natch-Kathak, tell us about this dance company? When did it start?

My idea of school is not like you come here, teach, and go. I want my students to be on stage, I want to get into productions. Everyone worldwide has this westernised idea of production, but Kathak is storytelling. We have forgotten the true meaning of Kathak, it is not just Bollywood, nah not even close to it!

It is vastly different, pure art, very subtle yet powerful. I want to train kids in such a way that they ultimately make it to stage for productions. I want them to try out dramas, how their learning has formed a story for them, and how they would present that in a story telling version. So, you are going to not just attend a class – it’s a company, where you are going to be professionals.

3. Tell us a little about your dancing journey and what has it taught you?

So initially I started as a Bharatanatyam dancer, my inspiration was my elder sister. Pursuing it for around 3-4 years but later my teacher got married and moved to Germany. It’s like you associate your dance form with your teacher – and the situation was – we cannot do Bharatanatyam anymore. I felt cheated! We did not want to go to anyone else.

You need to be faithful, committed, disciplined and loyal to be with your Guruji. This is one thing that Kathak taught me, and the real learning began when we moved to Kathak Kendra and started our new dancing journey.

Guru Nandini Singh ji, holds importance like no other in this journey that I embarked on, even today I tell her first if I am learning from any new person and ask her permission if it is, okay? If not, I am not going to continue doing it. Currently she is my Guru who has poured her heart into her teachings and taught us the art that she has specialised in from years, we value and treasure it.

This journey is incomplete without my parents. They never gave up even if we were on the brink of it. The tough phase of a student life, where studying and managing your extracurricular activity is exceedingly difficult (particularly as in the Indian society a lot of emphasis is on attaining qualifications). They pushed us to do this, even though getting good grades was not their agenda, and I realise they were right as this is how life will go on. Just because it is getting difficult and is not fitting well in your routine that doesn’t mean you are going to leave it.

They said it is hard to give in so many years to an art, and they wanted us to keep it going because you never know what it will bloom into. Now when I am taking these classes I realise what they were saying so true.

I would say it was a collaborative effort of making me and my sister a Kathak dancer, it would be impossible without them, such care and affection. My dad used to tie ghungroo on our feet’s – the cutest thing ever!

4. How does it feel to represent your tradition and culture through dance in a foreign land?

It feels so nice that I can’t even put it into words. Last Diwali festival I was doing a solo that was around 15-16 mins. There were a whole lot of things happening that day and we were supposed to perform outdoors which had a huge place but because of rain it was shifted indoors. I clearly remember there were a lot of foreigners in the audience, the space was limited yet they were so interactive. But that day, unlike an auditorium experience, I could see their happy faces, without having a clue regarding the performances they were still enjoying.

Another experience was this fusion piece with an Irish dancer. I was doing Kathak, and she was so surprised that I could cope up with all the expressions, turns, the foot work and did everything.

You are worshipping what you have learnt and trying to give it back to people here, and make sure they also enjoy and find value in it.

7 - Kathak Dance Classes in Auckland | Kathak Dance company

5. Tell us where have you performed before and where can people see your performances?

I will just start with where I have performed in New Zealand because in India, I have done quite a few performances. Here, I started with Auckland Diwali festivals from 2018. There were a whole lot of performances that I have done with Basant Madhur, he is really active in the Indian community as one of the best musicians in the country.

He is the most important person for our dance school, basically he puts us on the map. I always perform with him, he brings projects like fusion, performances where different musicians collaborate and then we then collaborate with different instruments and do a dance form.

The last performance was this January where the students at my dance school were put on stage and I did a solo piece that was a tribute to Pandit Ravi Shankar called ‘Kakli’, a jugalbandi. It is one of the toughest things I have done till date.

6. Talk to us about your classes and where can those who are interested to take them up get the info from?

We have mostly all our batches at the Blockhouse Bay community centre. Also, thinking of expanding it to South Auckland, which would be sooner as and when we get more students. You can check the details on our Instagram, Facebook or email us at kathakdanceco@outlook.co.nz

We have just opened up a term and are still accepting people for next two weeks. We can’t stretch it more as joining after a few weeks gets difficult for students to catch up.

However, there are workshops that are completely free, it is mostly for people who just want to come and try it out if they really want to commit to dance.

“It’s really good to have a teacher that is around your age, with Purnima you come, you enjoy your time, you are learning and we joke around. It is a fun process. It makes the learning process alot earlier than going to a school with a teacher where you can not be at ease or comfortable interacting. I have been learning for a year now, and recently have started teaching under her guidance.”

— Yashi Yamini,Senior student at Natch – Kathak Dance Company.

7. What is your future vision for Natch – Kathak Dance Company?

We are thinking of doing this year for now, I am just going to keep short term goals – doing a small production this year. It’s not going to be a dance drama kind of vibe but planning to take a story from our ancient age, try and portray the storyline with dance in it.

It is always a learning curve, maybe I will not get into dialogs, etc. though I have been part of such productions before but directing and producing will be my first time. I will be doing this so that my students will know this is the vision, the real deal being a part of this dance company.

Purnima’s candid chat left our eyes open to the fact that dance is not just shaking your legs and hand in the air or not just twirling around on any dance number. It is like falling in love with an art, staying committed and loyal to it, and if you think you can’t do it anymore, that’s when your near and dear one’s support is all you need to keep going in life. Life that consists of many things including this art, the one which was your love at first sight.

Last but not the least, after going through her live performance, videos and attending her Kathak class, we did pick up favourites, it was her performance in Mahadeva with Kalyani Yajnanarayan, Garaj Garaj from Bandish Bandits and Duniya from Luka Chuppi – Kathak fusion dance. Her performances can be seen on the Natch-Kathak Instagram and YouTube channel. -Vritti Parasher

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