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Shovana Narayan

Shovana Narayan is one of the foremost dancers in the annals of dance today and a name synonymous with Kathak, giving it new dimensions. She is an embodiment of the great artistic and social traditions of India. Yet at the same time, she is a visionary who has amalgamated the best of both the worlds, the past and the present. A staunch traditionalist undaunted by fettered traditions, she is individualistic, contemporary and ever dynamic who is leaving behind a legacy of believing and living a personal commitment.

A unique thinking artiste and an imaginative choreographer, vivacious with exuberant rhythmic elan, displaying exquisite mastery over layakari (rhythmic sequences) yet a consummate master with a rare involvement, intensity and subtlety in abhinaya (mime, expression), she reaches the inner depths of not only her own, but also the very being of the viewer. Her performances seem a natural extension of herself and her beliefs, replete with pristine beauty and brilliant artistry yet sensitive to her surroundings and purity of the dance form. With her stunning additions to traditional presentations of the two thousand year old dance form and to choreographic themes, she has expanded the horizons of Kathak.

Bestowed with natural beauty, talent and grace, Shovana, one of the leading disciples of the maestro, Pt. Birju Maharaj at Delhi, was initiated into Kathak as a child at the tender age of four, by the well-known dancer-actress of yester-years, Sadhana Bose at Calcutta and by Guru Kundanlal at Bombay. Her style represents a crystallisation of combined techniques acquired from the sophisticated elegance of the Lucknow gharana and the rhythmic precision of the Jaipur school. Her approach also bears the stamp of a mind influenced by the cultures of the world, projecting an individualistic attitude to the dance form that bring new pictures to the mind.

In appearance, she may represent the Mughal miniature as a personification of elegance, sensitivity and grace, yet she is the pillar of inner strength and determination, which succeeds in endowing her with a strangely brilliant luminosity. She has not been afraid to experiment dancing with other dance forms, without ever compromising with the purity of her form nor has she been lagging in her efforts, as a dancer, to draw attention to the environment and social issues around her. Belonging to a family history steeped in the independence and social movement in the country, their ethos seems to be reflected in her genuine and deep concern for society and the less privileged. Her personal sensitivities find her working quietly and closely with spastic, mentally and physically handicapped children as also children and people from less fortunate backgrounds.

Her sharp intelligence and her keen interest in research, led her to study forgotten and untouched pastures, which resulted in path-breaking research works, published in the form of two much acclaimed books. She is also a Visiting Lecturer at the Theaterfurwissenschaften, University of Vienna.

A staunch believer in the Gurukul-parampara, Shovana imparts to her disciples not only details of Kathak but also her own sensitivities and message of love, righteous practices and trust, which makes an artiste humane. Here again she has successfully redefined the Guru-Shishya tradition and related it to the modern society. Her dedication as a guru of excellence can be seen in her disciples who have become acclaimed young dancers of the country.

Her keen intelligence as well as articulate and thinking approach makes her a natural choice as a keynote speaker at various forums, seminars, workshops as well as author of various articles in magazines and newspapers, be it on issues relating to the world of dance and arts or be it relating to women's development.

No wonder, she is taken by both, the young and the old, as a unique role model of the 20th and 21st century India whose eclectic taste, traditional yet bold views, deep philosophical approach, brilliant articulation and a luminous personality have metamorphosed into an exquisite personal expression!