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Kathak (The World of Shovana Narayan)

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Kathak (The World of Shovana Narayan)
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Kathak (The World of Shovana Narayan)

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Item Code: NAL171
Author: Kamal K. Mishra
Publisher: Kanishka Publishers
Language: English
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 9788173917257
Pages: 220 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 10 inch x 7.5 inch
weight of the book: 832 gms
About the Book

This work is the first of its kind in the world of performing arts that explores and investigates into the motivation, psychology and personality through the medium of choreographic works of a multifaceted artist, which in this case is the celebrated Indian classical dancer of the Kathak style, Shovana Narayan. A living legend in the field of art, she has set a unique trend by redefining dance and a dancer’s life for she is the first ever professional career dancer who combines a fully fledged career as a senior serving civil servant in the Government of India. She epitomizes the essence of the Natyasastra patra (Ns 6.11) that should be imbued with eleven characteristics such as Rasa, Bhava Abhinaya, Dharmi, Varitti, Pravritti, Siddhi, Svara, Atodya, Gana and Ranga. Thus, sha is the true representative of the Indian cultural heritage that the Sastras speak about in the context of a ‘personality’.

This book makes a serious enquiry into the authenticity of the origin of choreographic works of Shovana Narayan, most of which became trend setters whether it was the use of flares of the skirt in Moonlight Impressionism (1993) or the use of English text (1992) or to themes relating to philosophy and social awareness (1983 onwards) or performing with dancers of other styles (1976 onwards) and to music from around the globe (1982 onwards). Besides an in-depth analysis that covers a wide range of expressions and emotions, the book also includes views of eminent philosophers, poets, writers, art journalists, eminent political and administrative personalities as well as leading performing artistes.

Choreographic works of Shovana who has dared to be ‘different’ and has not been afraid to tread unbeaten paths, reflect her innate sensitivity and a deep respect for humanity.


About the Author

Kamal K. Mishra, M. A., M. Phil., Ph.D. (University of Delhi), Post Doctoral Research (Jawarharlal Nehru University). Dr. Mishra is a young researcher whose interest covers a wide gamut of Indian Cultural development and its relevance in the modern context is devoted to deep and abiding study in cross-cultural analysis of Orientel languages, literature and art. A recipient of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Scholarship for his doctoral studies on Indian Economy through Sanskrit Inscriptions. He is trained in Epigraphy and Manuscriptology. Recently completed a ICSSR Post-Doctoral Research at the Special Centre for Sanskrit studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, on Selfin the Indian Narrative Tradition : Socio-Psychological insights from the epic Mahabharata. His publications include Prachin Bharata Ki Arthavyavastha (Bharatiya Jnanpith, 2004) and a Descriptive Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts in Shri Ranbir Sanskrit Research Institute, Jammu (J & K), Vol. Iv, (2004), with Dr. D. R. Shastri. His forth-coming work is Cosmic Dance of Nataraja-Siva in Hindi.



In the Indian tradition, Nataraja Siva is supposed to be the founding Father of Dance. Acharya Bharata’s Natyasastra and Abhinavagupta’s Rasa Siddhanta present the various aspects of dance in toto. Various forms of dance figure in archaeological finds such as caves, murals and miniature drawings, and terracotta and bronze statues. In the vastness of Indian culture along with dance there has been a perpetual under-current of another tradition—that of storytelling, or balladry, which is discernible in our myths, tales, fables and folk-lore since ages. The tradition of Kathak i.e., narration through the medium of dance, is to be found in many an episode in the prime epic, the Mahabharata.

Through the ages, there has been an amazing variety of expansion and changes in the form of presentation and quality of Kathak. Through the millennia, many well-known and not-so-well known Kathak dancers have contributed to this heritage. In the process of evolution of Kathak, by combining the traditional elements with contemporary literature and various human emotions, Ms. Shovana Narayan has made pioneering efforts for Kathak to gain worldwide recognition. If art endows the artist with a unique personality, the artist, too, with her creative genius, adds new dimensions to an art form, thereby enhancing its aesthetic value. This symbiosis is exactly what has happened between the artiste, Shovana, and her Art.

Shovana has grown as an accomplished Choreographs. Choreography is the art of creating and arranging dance forms. The composition of any dance is intrinsically creative. By bringing in poetic and metaphorical expression to the plot her choreography does representation as well as abstraction. In so doing Choreography puts order upon dance beyond the level of pure improvisation. It shapes dance in the three dimensions of space and time. It also used the potential of the human body. The dance performs certain functions and a choreographer may organize his or her work in order to respond to outside stimulus or internal desire or emotion. The final structure of the choreographic work evolves through stages. After gathering the movement material the choreographer develops movements into dance phrases. While the most basic motive of dance is the expression and communication of emotions, the release of powerful feeling is also an important function of dance. Dance allows experience of the body and the surrounding environment in newer ways. In fact dance creates a different perception of time and space for the dancer. The structure of dance after reflects the tradition in which it is created and performed. Dance can take a variety of forms ranging between simple spontaneous activity to formalized art.

Tradition plays a key role in organizing choreography. The mode in which a choreographer accumulates movement material depends on the tradition in which he works. In tune with modern choreographers Shovana has changed herself in creating variations within a traditional pattern of movements as well as creating a vocabulary and style of movement to suite their personal visions. Shovana a draws material from diverse source. This volume tries to present a narrative of evolution and development of Kathak as well as other experiments in dance from in the life space of Shovana which has become more and more encompassing.



Practitioners, soaked with knowledge and experience but slowly fading into oblivion, remote villages with immense wealth and depth in Kathak, but little known otherwise... As a representative of the well-known Kathak danseuse, Shovana Narayan, I had the opportunity of travelling to remote areas of Bihar. I came into contact with many such people. Is it not the onus on society to help in the preservation of such knowledge and reservoir of experience? This thought kept ringing in my mind.

...New areas, different villages but the similar, silent pain of existence.... With these thoughts, the effort to capture the motivation, pain, happiness and inspiration in the works of Shovana Narayan, which would serve as an important link in the chain binding the tradition of yesterday with the innovations of tomorrow, became of paramount importance to me!

Motivated by an absolute sense of dedication, an artiste’s endeavour is always to reach newer and greater heights in his field of art. In this context, along with dance, Shovana’s personality has many shades. For example, as a research scholar in Physics, as a very senior office of the Indian Audits and Accounts Service, as a dedicated and passionate top ranking Indian classical dancer, as a doting mother, as an extremely warm-hearted and dutiful wife, her life is a beautiful example of the universality of feeling, hard work and open- hearted generosity. With all this, she shares a warm humane relationship with other co-artistes as well as acts as a benevolent guru to her students. In this manner, bestowed with an enviable multitalented personality, Shovana has recently completed and published two research works in the field of dance, viz, Rhythmic Echoes and Reflections : Kathak (1999) and The Dance Legacy of Patliputra (2000).

From the world of office files to the world of Indian classical dance, the successful saga of tala and laya of these two apparently dissimilar universe systems, in reality, mirrors her dedication to life and work coupled with her unflinching belief in words and love for humanity. It’s an emotion, which has also been captured by the print and electronic media all over the world.

Since time immemorial, the multi-faceted expression (bhava) between man and woman has been one of the central themes of Kathak with its emphasis on the immortality of love (sringara), divinity and sublimation. Innovations in various aspects have therefore, been a dynamic tradition within the dance form, which has helped in imbuing the dance tradition with an amazing vitality.

In the world of Kathak, Shovana may be the first dancer to draw attention to various aspects of humen relationships in order to understand, represent and share its complexities, perceptions and associated sensitivities. Her dance seeks to explore the joyous yet spiritual union of man and woman in the path of Ultimate Truth. The subjects chosen in her presentations and their renderings are clear pointers to her sharp, incisive, deep, philosophical understanding of human nature. Undoubtedly, the credit of widening the horizons of Kathak, by taking it into till now, unexplored territories by way of theme and expression, seems to go to her.

Even when seen from a traditional point of view, shovana has not only extended the frontiers of Kathak and established a warm and emotional bond with other Indian dance forms but also with European Classical dance forms, thus magnifying and intensifying the universal appeal of Kathak. Her dance presentations are visual articulations, reflective of her keen intelligence with its vivid and novel panoramic vistas of interpretations.

Shovana’s Kathak is a composite realization of life in its various shades of experience and emotion. He rhythmic expressions seem to radiate eternal energy transcending the barriers of space and time. Her dance canvas seems to extend beyond the frontiers of her country to envelop the space of universal humanity. Thus, her dance often speaks of the depth of love, which is another face of bhakti (devotion) and profound human sentiments.

It is this quality in Shovana’s Kathak where the symbolisms of mythological stories are interwoven with human sensitivities and extraordinary contemporariness. Her natural involvement imbues her presentations with an unusual depth and grace.

While on the one hand the sociological theory of L.Goldmen on universality of emotions seems to be quite closely reflected in Shovana’s works, on the other hand her dance speaks of her solid classical foundations in the laws enunciated in the Natyasastra of Acharya Bharata.




  Acknowledgements v
  Preface Author's note vii
1 Introduction 3
2 Seed and its Flowering 9
3 Kathak and Shovana 23
4 Within the Vastness and Unlimited Horizons : Shovana 's Kathak 33
5 "...My Views..." -A Critique or? Speaking from Within: Shovana in Her Own Words 43
6 An Inward Journey : A dialogue 55
7 Perceptive Intelligence and Psychological Motivations Behind Choreography 67
8 Expressions and Innovations 99
9 Word and Expressions 115
10 From Memories and Archives 129
I. Shovana Narayan  
  Padmashri and SNA Award--A Detailed Profile 171
II. My Journey  
  Ali Sardar Jafri 201


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