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Dance is thought and feeling, says Indu Mitha

April 04, 2008

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RAWALPINDI, April 3: Indu Mitha, a famous classical dancer and teacher, shared her views with the students of National College of Arts (NCA) here Thursday evening. The event proved to be a very fruitful dialogue between the students of the theatre group of the NCA and other participants with Indu Mitha who has more than 50 years of experience as a dancer and dance teacher.

It appeared the students had very little knowledge about classical dance traditions but Indu Mitha’s talk was simple and direct and answered all their questions about the beginning of dance, its place in life, and as an art from of many dimensions.

She said there were few people around now a days who could teach classical dance and those who could had to face many difficulties as teachers. But that was not the only obstacle. The students were equally constrained as conservative families considered dance to be bad in a moral sense. Secondly the new generation itself was so absorbed in the modern life style that they could not submit themselves to the hard discipline of classical dance. Moreover dance required physical fitness and stamina which urban girls used to a life of leisure and physical inactivity did not have, Indu said.

The dialogue with Indu was a first programme of the NCA series called ‘Spotlight’ intended to introduce performing artists to the new generation and make them conversant with distinguished personalities. The monthly programme is open to public.

Indu Mitha who was trained in the Uday Shankar style of modern dance by Zohra and Kameshwan Sehgal at the Zoresh Institute Lahore before Partition, said that when she started her dance education there was only Kathak training available in Lahore. She said there were four types of dance at that time — Kathak, Bharata Natyam, Manipuri and Kathakali. Now there were some seven different types of classical dances.

Indu Mitha is adept in Bharata Natyam genre of dance that she learnt initially at the Bharrati school in Delhi with Vijay Raghava Rao and later from Shrimati Lalita.

In response to a question she said the all around environment and social trends influenced those willing to learn dance. In old South India people used to dance and sing as a regular activity in the evening after the day long hard work, she said.

Indu Mitha, who has taught her daughter and presently conducts regular dance training and community outreach projects in Islamabad, said in the beginning the Indian capital was as bureaucratic and dry as Islamabad was today but with the passage of time literary and artistic people crept in and brought with them different activities.

The artist had also brought the dance in drama and photography and some of her dance photos were shown to the audience. She also exhibited some steps of classical dance invoking keen interest among the students.

The Spotlight ended with the reading of a quotation of Indu Mitha that “Dance is not about taal, dance is not about conformity to music, dance is about ideas and feelings which are universal (not specified to Hindu mythology) but the myths of human beings”.