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Carmel Academy keeps centuries-old dance alive

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — Keeping a centuries-old dance form alive is one way to keep up with tradition. The Carmel-based Nrityangan Kathak Academy is teaching a new generation a north Indian classical dance form.

Instructor Anindita Sen says when it comes to North Indian classical dance, this one is unique, as it has Hindu, Persian, and Islamic influences, making it a very rich form of dance. She says it’s an important piece of art to keep alive, but also a vital part of culture.

“Telling a story is what we do through our movement,” Sen said.

A lifetime of dance has set the stage for Sen to share her knowledge. And there’s freedom in the footwork. It sets the pace for the dance called kathak.

Hundreds of dancers have passed through this program over the years, and this group is taking the next steps, twirls, and pose.

Pritikaa Biswas has been here before. As a graduate of the program, the movement has brought her closer to culture, and she now helps teach kathak.

“The reason I was drawn to kathak was that it gave me an opportunity to look more into my culture and my heritage,” Biswas said. “I’ve learned certain things about hand movements and footwork that I haven’t been able to discover in other dance forms.”

The footwork and graceful movements are paramount to the style, but Sen says there are layers of difficulty.

“It is challenging because it’s not something that you can just show up one week and not show up for three more weeks,” Sen said. “The dance builds on what you learned.”

For centuries, dancers have performed kathak. Mughals who ruled at the time, first brought the dance to its courts. And while this is a passion project, there’s passion for keeping these dancers connected to heritage.

Sen says most of the girls in the program aren’t from the northern part of India, and most were born in America, but that’s the beauty of building community through culture.

“I love the fact that Indiana is turning into such a diverse community on the fact that people appreciate what we bring to the table,” Sen said.