Published: 11th August 2021
Love dance? Madhu Nataraj's NIKC has an online diploma in Choreography that's making all the right moves
Dancers, rejoice! Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography has a new diploma course in choreography. We speak to NIKC's Director Madhu Nataraj about their new course and a lot more
The Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography (NIKC) has a legacy of more than 50 years and thousands of students have graduated from this institution. Last year, when nobody had expected a pandemic to hit the world, NIKC launched their new course, Skill Diploma in Choreography. Madhu Nataraj, Director of the institute, claims that theirs was the first dance choreography programme to embrace the online model. Madhu, who is also a famous dancer and has toured 55 countries showcasing her dance skills, says, "I have always believed that dance should not be just an artform to tell mythological stories. I use the contemporary themes of dance to tell stories of dowry deaths, global warming, LGBTQIA+ issues, reservation policy in education and jobs, marital rape and a lot more. As a dancer, one should know more than just the aesthetics of dance, one must have political and social consciousness too."
We talk to her to find more about their new course. Excerpts:
1. Can you take us through the journey of NIKC?
The Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography's origin dates back to 1964 in Delhi when Padma Vibhushan Kamala Chattopadhyay established the institute under the guidance of Bharatiya Natya Sangh, the Indian Centre of International Theatres Institutions Trust, UNESCO. The institution was formed with the intention of providing methodical training in choreography for young learners. The format for the dance was designed by Dr Maya Rao who was a famous dancer.
Later, in 1987, NIKC was started in Bengaluru with a degree programme in choreography, affiliated to Bangalore University. Earlier, the degree programme was for three years. Gradually, people suggested that three years is a long time for a degree programme, especially in choreography. Hence, we changed it to a one-year Skill Diploma in Choreography that is now affiliated to Jain (Deemed-to-be University). Since 1987, thousands of students from around the world have graduated from the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography, Bengaluru.
2. What is the syllabus like for this one-year course?
This programme has been designed with a holistic approach to information and knowledge dissemination about dance and choreography. We not only teach dance to the students but they also learn about the history of choreography, art and craft of choreography, production design, get an overview of lighting design, stage design, costume design, music composition, dance treatises and Indian aesthetics, art history, research and documentation, movement vocabularies — kathak, Indian martial arts, folk/ritualistic motifs, mime and contemporary Indian dance and choreographic realignment for the virtual space. It was a very comprehensive course for an artform that is so composite.
We launched the Skill Diploma in Choreography programme only last year but we had redesigned the course in 2017. As the pandemic hit us, the entire programme was moved online and we had to rethink our teaching methodologies. Since it was an online programme, people from different countries were able to join it. From Bulgaria to Belagavi, many students apply to pursue this programme. We also have a Skill Diploma in Kathak and this course can be pursued by anybody. It is a foundation course and meant even for those who have never explored dance before. Starting from age 18 to 55, anybody can pursue this course.
3. How many candidates pursue this course every year?
We take only 12 students in a year for the Skill Diploma in Choreography programme as we want to give special attention to each candidate. If they want to pursue this programme, then the candidate must have a minimum of 5 to 6 years of dance experience and should have passed Class XII. Even a graduate can apply for this programme. It is mandatory for all applicants to clear the aptitude test.
4. Can you tell us about the STEM Dance Kampni and how it is different from NIKC?
I started the STEM Dance Kampni in 1995 to create a versatile dance vocabulary to explore limitless possibilities. When I say limitless possibilities, I mean using the dance form as mental therapy, to create movement, awareness on social issues and so on. Hence, at the STEM Dance Kampni, we have creative movement classes for working women and homemakers. It includes yoga, fitness regimens, kathak, folk dance motifs, improvisational and somatic practices. These classes are aimed at adding value to one's life through immersion in dance and aligning body, mind and spirit. Similarly, we have programmes for children, teenagers and so on.