On the first day when I entered the Birju Maharaj Katthak nritya workshop, I was surprised to see around 300-400 girls and a few boys dancing and learning in unison. The first thing to overwhelm my senses was the sound of the Ghunghroos, all together at once. In the corridors of the auditorium you could see the girls wearing and removing their ghunghroos and dancing and practicing their steps in circles. In the auditorium, near the stage Birju Maharaj and his Shishya Shashwati Sen were talking and explaining the students about Nritya Bol. At first everything seemed like chaos but after a while the sahaj rhythm of nritya shows itself, There was no shouting or yelling or any sign of distress, all you could hear were the beats of the tabla and the rhythm of the nritya. The first lesson to learn from maharajji is about observation and involvement, even the realization of dance as a philosophy comes out alive in the workshop.
Dance is the expression of sentiments without the use of words and Maharajji dances like he breathes air. When you see him dance you feel like dancing yourself. Groups of dancers turn up in the workshop one after another but it’s a totally different experience to be a part of this workshop. Maharajji and Shashwatiji teach you dancing like a mother would teach her kids, even if they shout at your mistakes you know that it comes out of care.
When you meet and talk about dance to Maharajji you understand why he is a legend. He says that “dance does not need effort, it has to flow into you just like air. When you dance you should dance from your soul and only then your body will look beautiful while you are dancing. You have to dance with all your feelings and not only with your hands and legs.” In the workshop you learn about the laya of existence from Maharajji. Then comes body language which should flow like water because flowing water always looks beautiful. To learn how to dance one must be in synchronization with nature (prakriti) and should be aware of every movement one makes. Every gesture should be sharp and should look beautiful as per the flow of your body, even your feet should understand the rhythm of your body. Without putting your soul into the dance one cannot learn Katthak dance like Maharjji.
When I asked him that being a man, how can he obtain the nazakat of a woman in his Nritya. He promptly answered, “ I love Krishna. If you see Krishna, his body is that of a man but one can feel he is full of laltiya and madhurya. I tried to be one with him while dancing so people can see lalitya and madhurya in me. I dance for Krishna. Krishna is rasik rasiya, full of madhurya and love.”