For the love of Kathak

April Vuncannon has been dancing for the past 20 years. She started learning tap, jazz and ballet as a child and performed on stage and at professional sporting events for 10 years. It was not until college, however, that April was introduced to Indian dance and her now favorite style of dance, Kathak. April first studied this dance form in Pune under Indrayani Kulkarni. For the past 3 ½ years, April has been learning from her Guru Rinku B. Das and performing as part of Nrityajyoti Dance Academy's professional group. The team performs Indian classical, contemporary, folk and Bollywood dances.

What got you interested in Indian classical dance?

Back when I was in college, the school's film program offered their first ever course on Indian cinema. At that time, my knowledge of India was very limited, so I decided to take on this new experience. I was not disappointed. On the contrary, I became a big fan of Indian movies. It was interesting to watch a world so unlike my own. What really captivated me however, were the dances, so lively and graceful. Even though all the different types were beautiful, I started to notice that a particular style had put a spell on me. It was, Kathak. From that point onward, I had no choice. I had to learn the dance.

What’s the core spirit of Indian classical dances as you feel it? Do you feel there’s a spiritual side?

The core spirit of Kathak is dignified and passionate. Absolutely!

What is Guru-Shishya Parampara to you? 

For readers who are not familiar with the Guru-Shishya parampara, let me explain it as I know it. When someone wants to learn an Indian art form, they should choose their teacher (Guru) carefully because this person will become a key figure in the student’s life. Learning an Indian classical dance, or any other art form, requires dedication, lots of hard work and of course, guidance. The Guru will guide the student (shishya) like a parent does a child and as a result a close bond can develop. This happened for me and my Gurus. First, I learned the basics of Kathak in Pune with my Guru Indrayani Kulkarni Ji. And for the past 4 years, I have been training with Rinku Bhattacharya Das Ji. Time spent with both these wonderful women has enriched my life and helped me grow into the dancer and person that I always wanted to be.

What are your thoughts on the fusion of traditional and classical Indian dances with the influence of some jazz, hip-hop and modern dance? 

I have mixed feelings about fusion. I love how it reaches larger audiences but I worry that the quality of these traditional dances might diminish as a result. 

Any special moment or memorable experience in your dancing career till date that you would like to share with us?

Last year, my Guru, Rinku Bhattacharya Das Ji, directed a dance production called “Classic Bollywood.” In this show, we performed on popular Bollywood songs from days past and present. There were classical dances and folk, as well as Bollywood numbers. This was the most challenging show that I have ever done. I was in Kathak, contemporary, Bollywood and hip-hop items. Altogether, I was in 6 dances! Before then, I always felt that 2 or 3 dances weren’t enough. I had so much more to give. “Classic Bollywood” gave me that chance; to show my best, to dance my heart out! 

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