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Interview excerpts: Birju Maharaj

Pundit Brij Mohan Misra, better known as Kathak guru Birju Maharaj, has pursued Lucknow gharana of Kathak in its purest form as it was handed down to him through the generations.

Excerpts from an interview

At the outset, your very first simple advice to the dancers of today?

Birju Maharaj:

Jab tum nacho, dharti maa ka massage karo, use kuton, maro nahi . Dharti maa ke prati jo hamara pyar hai, use hi ham Nrutya kahte hain, uska bhav yahi hai, aur use usi tarah se pesh kiya jana chahiye.

How did you gain mastery over so many instruments like the Tabla, Santoor and vocal music?

Birju Maharaj:

Once Jagjit Singh said to me, 'Panditji, aapki kala sampoorna hai, laya, sur aur bhav, tinon aapki kala mein hai .' For me, dance is perhaps my favourite medium of expression; however, I enjoy all kinds of music. Dance is the foremost medium of expression for me; other forms are the adornments which I have received in the course of my journey. And once you understand the emotion which music signifies, the instruments just become the different media for expression of your creativity. Other maestros have gained proficiency in expressing their emotions through their instrument; I have found my path to people's hearts through dance.

What are the qualities of a good dancer?

Birju Maharaj:

As I said, dance is a complete art. Sur, taal, bhav and laya, an in-depth knowledge of all these aspects is vital, even if one is weak, your education is incomplete. Laya is especially important; a dancer must be perfect in his laya, to bring the necessary grace and synchronization in his dance. Without it, dance is not possible.

Musicians often have a special bond with The Creation, especially nature, how would you like to share your feelings about nature?

Birju Maharaj:

An artist's best teacher is nature. My only advice to young dancers is to watch and observe nature, which is a perfect symphony. Watch a tree and its branches, it is the best way to see nature dance; watch the winds whistle, the clouds rumble, the lightning dance through the skies. Why do you need to go anywhere, when nature is here.

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