Komal Khushwani is an accomplished Kathak artist and a disciple of Guru Pt. Jai Kishan Maharaj Ji with a Master’s and Nipuna in Kathak. She is an alumna of Kathak Kendra, where she had aced her exams for the 13+ years that she received training there, as well as a national scholarship holder. She is also a SPIC MACAY empaneled artist and has been graded by Doordarshan. Komal is known to leave the audience spellbound with her elegant moves and graceful efforts and has won several prestigious awards.
What made you fall in love with Kathak and when did you decide that you wanted to pursue Kathak as a profession? How did you manage to strike a balance between Kathak and academics in school?
Namaskaar! It is difficult to describe what made me fall in love with Kathak because when we truly love something, we can’t list the reasons behind it. It is just something that happened, and the more I learn and explore Kathak, the more I fall in love with it. Dance is my passion, so I pursued it, and it became my life.
I have always been a bright student, and the credit goes to my parents for teaching me the best utilization of time. These days it is easy for kids to miss dance classes if they have an exam the next day. My father used to be very strict and never allowed me to miss any of my dance classes during exam time. However, my mother was always particular about my studies. Kathak helped me in academics as well because practicing classical dance forms tends to sharpen the mind.
Learning Kathak requires a lot of discipline and hard work. How many years does one need to put in to be called a professional? Tell us about your journey and relationship with Kathak.
Indian classical dance is akin to the ocean, one lifetime is not enough to explore it in totality. It takes 10-12 years of formal instruction to understand classical dance, but should you wish to pursue it professionally, learning never ends. I feel fortunate to have been born into a family where practicing classical arts is a tradition! Kathak is not just a part of my life, it is my life. I respect all dance forms, but I love Kathak the most. My journey with Kathak started at the age of 4, under Guru Lt. Smt. Reva Vidhyarthi Ji. I have also been very fortunate to have received the guidance of eminent gurus — Guru Malti Shyaam Ji, Guru Rani Khanam Ji, and Guru Pt. Jai Kishan Maharaj Ji.
I have completed my post-graduation in Kathak, from Kathak Kendra, under Guru Pt. Jai Kishan Maharaj Ji, where I aced the examinations throughout my training period(around 13+ years). My journey has been extremely beautiful throughout my training years; I used to spend hours at home, figuring out the movements, compositions, and sequences that Guruji was teaching in class. Guruji always said, ”Dekhya Seekhya Parikhya”, which means there are three ways through which we can learn — by directly learning, by observing, and by reviewing the performances of great dancers, or musicians.
Tell us a bit about the philosophy behind Kathak as opposed to other classical forms. Who would you say is your idol? Is there any special composition of theirs which leaves you spellbound?
Kathak is traditionally deemed to have been founded by the traveling bards of North India, called ‘Kathakars’ or storytellers, who went from place to place, narrating epics with the help of music, rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye work. Kathak is popular for its vigorous footwork and fast turns. As compared to other classical dance forms, I believe that Kathak has a huge component of audience interaction and more space for improvisation.
My idol is my Guru Pt. Jai Kishan Maharaj Ji. All his compositions leave me, and all members of the audience spellbound(smiles).
Tell us something about your self-choreographed dance piece, ‘Sakar Hota Sapna’. What gave you the inspiration to stage it?
‘Sakar Hota Sapna’ was a contemporary play directed by Rohit Tripathi Sir and my first choreography project. I incorporated different dance styles to choreograph different pieces per the play’s sequences — one was choreographed in Chau, which is a martial arts-based dance form, one was a contemporary dance piece, while others were choreographed in Kathak.
After being a recipient of so many glorious awards, you started your own Kathak classes along with sessions for beginners. How does being a teacher differ from being a performer? Is there any teaching strategy of your gurus that you have adopted to teach your students?
Being a teacher is quite different from being a performer, yet complimentary because teaching is itself learning the thing twice. When we perform, we choose compositions per our level, but when we teach, we have to teach techniques in an easy-to-understand format.
Teaching classical dance is not just teaching the individual steps or compositions; It is a process to instill traditional values in, and mold the student’s inclination towards classical arts. In my classes, I prefer taking students from an absolute basic level only because that is the best time to work on strengthening their basics. There are many teaching strategies that I have learned from my guru by assisting him in workshops and classes, which I follow to pass on the ‘taleem’ to younger generations.