Nritya-Gatha:Stories of Indian Dance, is a fun book on Indian dance traditions, specially written and designed for children by Parwati Dutta, director Mahagami Gurukul, and published by the Mahagami Arts Research Foundation, Mahagami Gurukul, Aurangabad.
The author is a renowned Kathak and Odissi exponent, Guru and researcher, who is recognised as a thinker dancer and a dedicated art administrator.
Her passion to ignite uninitiated minds towards exploring and experiencing the rich cultural heritage of India, has benefitted children and adults alike.
Her creative inputs in cultivating the Mahagami Gurukul as a source of spreading this awareness, has won her, great admiration far and wide. The attractive cover and colourful illustrations of NrityaGatha, will draw children towards the book like love at first sight.
The book is written in such an interesting way that no child would like to put it down midway. The author has kept in mind the imaginative world of children, their cognitive abilities and creative energy.
The book gives a vivid picture of every dance form through captive visuals, simple narrative text and images that would let a child simply experience the dance. The book deals with various dance styles, namely, Kathak, Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohini-Attam, Manipuri, Kathakali, Sattriya and Chhau.
The story of each dance style starts with the historical and geographical introduction of its origin, then come the codified gestures, movements of limbs and the entire body that create different patterns in space like spiral through Kathak, waves through Odissi, triangles and straight lines through Bharatanatyam, circles through Manipuri and so on. There are also some mnemonics of each dance style.
All of this is linked with an anecdotal story that the children can relate to. Take the chapter on Kathak, for instance, that opens thus: "Once upon a time, a group of artists well-versed in the art of singing, playing instruments and dancing…weresweetly narrating divine stories. They were called Kathak."
Then the story moves on to Manu and Malti, two children, gifted with "Hastak", strong "Tatkar", fond of "Pheri" learning "Tarana" and so on, that the children reading the book can easily connect with.
Thus they are acquainted with the terminology and the mnemonics, "Tat Tat Thei…", written alongside the image of Malti, dancing Kathak. Then there is a short introduction of the dance form, such as, which part of India it is associated with, the costume, repertoire and accompanying instruments et al.
The story of all other dance styles are also narrated more or less on same lines. Thus, in addition to being informative and aesthetically rich, the book takes the young readers closer to the real experience of dance learning, practice and performance, filled with moments of joy.
This rejoicing goes hand-in-hand with learning the fascinating story of each dance form, familiarising them simultaneously.
The glossary at the end of the book deals with the technical terminologies of each dance style used throughout the book, explained in simple language.
The fascinating illustrations are done by Kunal Wagh, Kassandra Fernandes and Roma Kashelkar. Reasonably priced, the English book costs Rs.500 and the Hindi translation Rs 400 only.
The dancer-author, who has scripted and designed the concept, shares the secret of this wonderful idea: "After a long phase of thinking, reflecting and learning from the imaginative world of dance, I’m finally sharing this innovative and novel gift with all those kids, who love to dance, love to watch dance and love to know more about dance. Through this book I wish to share some basic information about the history, movements and speciality of each dance that can stimulate tender minds to know about the great Indian dance heritage and discover this creative world of movements, expressions and numerous stories retold through dance."
The good news is that after being translated into Hindi and Marathi, Nritya-Gatha is being made available in other languages too, so as to reach out to many more tender and creative minds!