India is known to be a very colorful country – our colors come from our variety of cloth, music and dance. If Indian classical dances have reached the global platform, then our folk dances are not behind as well. People from all over the world play Garba and Dandiya during the Navratri season, in fact, in United Kingdom and The United States of America the Navratri season goes on for over a month that is the craze of Indian folk dance.
Renowned Kathak Guru Vijayshree Chaudhary recently conducted a free online folk-dance workshop which was a major hit and people from all over the world joined these three days course which she conducted personally.
I have known Guru Vijayshree Chaudhary for over two decades now and I have seen her quality of work which is very visible through her students. She is also the dance guru of many Bollywood actresses and the official classical dance trainer of Miss India contest.
I spoke with Guru Vijayshree Chaudhary about this fun-filled and highly informative workshop:
You are a Kathak Guru, what made you conduct a folk-dance workshop?
Yes, you are right I have learnt under the best Kathak Guru in the world, Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj and Kathak has always been my first love. Doing folk-dance workshop was my husband film director Anil Chaudhary idea. He told me that people are at home and absolutely frustrated because of the current Covid situation. The workshop, he said, should be fun, simple yet very lively and something that will create positivity. I am glad I followed what he said and conducted the folk-dance workshop.
What did you teach at this folk extravaganza?
It was a three-day workshop and each day was totally a new experience. I taught Gidda, Bhangda, Ghoomar and Bihu. My friends Agreema and Alisha helped me conduct this workshop. Most participants were women, and we all had a blast together. The most appreciated section was the one wherein I spoke about history and evolution of dance – it got women glued to their screens and many even went ahead to research about the dance.
Tell me more about your folk-dance training?
Apart from Kathak I have learnt music from Hyderabad Music College and trained in various Indian folk dances like Garba, Dimsa, Snake Charmer dance, Peacock dance, Banjara dance, Gidda, Bhangda, Bihu, Lambadi dance and many more under the expert guidance of my Guru Gopal Raj Bhatt ji. He taught me that our folk dances are the cultural roots of our country, they join and bond people together. Therefore, their authenticity is extremely important, learning a folk-dance helps us unleash, unravel, untame and finally unveil who we really are. Folk art is like a bridge between the people and the society at large.
How different is learning / teaching a classical dance compared to a folk dance?
Classical dance need years of focus and mastering whereas folk dance art is a bit more relaxed in terms of its training. Folk dances are the heritage of our nation, they are colorful, vibrant not only in terms of their music but also the movement. Folk dances always bring in smiles, happiness and positivity, that is the true colour of a folk dance. Vidya (Education) of any art, be it classical or folk, can never go waste, it will always enrich us personally in some way or the other and the same happened with me too while I was learning Kathak and later diverse folk dances.
What difficulties did you face conducting this workshop?
Firstly, I was not sure what the response of a free online workshop would be, I was all the time worried about people’s reaction since I am a classical dance teacher, but my husband and friends motivated me and helped me a lot to think positively. Secondly, the online teaching medium is a bit difficult and I was new to it too so it took me a while before I got the hang of it. Like a good student I myself practiced before my workshop to understand how teaching via zoom would work, I wanted to make sure I can explain the finer nuisances of dance technique online. It was almost like camera dancing for me, I learnt a lot through this workshop. And lastly, I was expecting a few students only but to my surprise the response was tremendous, I had ladies from all over the world joining in which was overwhelming. I guess that is the magic of our Indian folk dances it pulls people together.
What are you planning next?
All the ladies who had attended the workshop want more such sessions, they have also shown keen interest in having a special workshop for kids, a class where apart from dance knowledge even the details of folk music, costume, jewellery and of course dance evolution and background is brought out. So, I am seriously planning that soon.