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With a diminishing significance of costumes and aesthetics and an absence of the once integral 'abhinaya', modern day Kathak appears to be "more about skill than art", Kathak doyen Kumudini Lakhia has said.
Speaking at the annual Kelucharan Mohapatra Memorial lecture series, the Padma Bhushan awardee examined a number of emerging challenges faced by the classical dance form - from the effects of technology on contemporary Kathak training and performance to shifts in the traditional mentor-disciple relationship.
"Modern day Kathak seems to be more about skill than art. Today, Kathak is more competitive than ever before and there is also the increasing tendency of bringing the classroom to the stage by its practitioners.
"Scant attention is paid to costumes and practitioners lack basic aesthetics. Absence of abhinaya (the art of expression) is another major area of concern," she said.
In the lecture titled, 'Kathak in Our Times', Lakhia, who established the Kadamb Dance Centre in Ahmedabad also observed how the teaching of Kathak needs an overhaul in institutions, universities and classrooms.
"The biggest difficulty for Kathak dancers today lies in teaching. Rather than focusing on the body language of students, teachers start adhering to curriculum right at the onset.
"The guru-shishya parampara has changed. The student- teacher ratio too has moved from 1:1 to 30:1," she said, adding that along with the existing Gharanas, there now seems to be a fast-emerging "YouTube Gharana" in the world of contemporary Kathak.
The lecture series held annually as a tribute to Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, one of the most influential exponents of Odissi who is credited with reviving the classical dance form in the 20th century, this year was organised by the Raza Foundation.