Shovana Narayan

Telling stories through Dance: An evening with renowned Kathak maestro, Padmashree Shovana Narayan

A summary of the lecture
by Sridevi Prasad, ISAS Program & Publications Assistant

“Ta-thei-thei-tat-dha-dhin-dhin-dha.” Accompanied by two live musicians playing the harmonium and tabla, Padmashree Guru Shovana Narayan graced the stage with a beautiful Kathak performance at an event hosted by the Institute for South Asia Studies on Friday, September 25. Kathak is one of eight dance forms recognized by the Indian government to be a classical dance. Incorporating intricate footwork and descriptive hand gestures, Kathak is an art-form that is used to tell stories. Using ancient sculptures and verses from Hindu texts such as the Mahabharata, Guru Narayan argued that Kathak has been performed for over 2500 years and traced the lineage back to male Brahmin storytellers or Kathaks. Unlike the other Indian classical dance forms, Kathak is unique in that the dancers stay in a vertical stance and not in the traditional aramandi (half-sitting) pose typified in Bharatanatym. During the demonstration, Guru Narayan elegantly performed pieces showcasing the variety of technical maneuvers and expressions present in the Kathak style. Engaging with the audience, she asked members of the audience to identify the animals that she was characterizing through her expressions and movements. In a stunning performance with beautiful abhinaya, Guru Narayan acted out a scene from the Mahabharata, skillfully switching between showing sneaky Shakuni throwing the loaded dice, swaggering Dushasana in his attempts to disrobe Draupadi, and the pleading Draupadi calling out to her savior, Krishna. In another piece, Guru Narayan used her ghungroos to depict a raging thunderstorm and to show the different wave properties between low tide and high tide. Ending the show, Guru Shovana Narayan brought two of her disciples on stage to dance with her, exemplifying that her legacy will be passed on to generations to come.