More audience for Indian classical dance on foreign shores: Kathak dancer Anuj Mishra

Khajuraho, Feb 23 (IANS) Kathak exponent Anuj Mishra, who is the 13th generation of artistes in his musical family, and has learnt under Late Kathak dancer Ramnarayan Mishra in Kolkata and then from Pandit Birju maharaj in Delhi, says that when he performed on foreign shores, the audience was greater in number than the audience that attends dance programs in India.

Here to perform at the 43rd edition of Khajuraho Dance Festival, Anuj mesmerised the audience with his performance on the first day of the week-long festival. The extravaganza started on February 21.

His forefather Late Shri Shiv Kishore Mishra was a renowned Sarangi player. His grandfather Late Shri Nanhu Mishra was a famous tabla maestro and his father late Pandit Arjun Mishra was a very famous and renowned kathak guru, dancer and choreographer.

Mishra has an impressive portfolio, having performed in big festivals like ‘Sawai Gandharva’, ‘Lucknow Mohatsava’, ‘Taj Mohatsava’, ‘Kathak Mahotsava’, ‘Konark Dance Festival’ , Kalaghoda Festival in India, etc.

Internationally he has performed in many countries like France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, Norway, England, Canada, Israel, Lebanon, Martinique and Guadalupe, etc.

“I observed that people on foreign shores respect art a lot. Now, yes India has been hosting a lot of festivals and Khajuraho Dance Festival is among them but this is very organised. Most festivals are not so nicely managed. Secondly, I have a grudge that the number of people attending these festivals are very less,” Anuj told IANS here.

“Whereas in international festivals it’s very much the opposite. Like I have performed in Lebanon, Tunisia, France… There the audience count series between 20 thousand to 80 thousand. This is the figure of Indian Classical dance festivals there. I am not talking about rock genre. Why this happens is due to the amazing promotion that happens prior to the festival. It reaches the normal public,” he added.

Anuj says that culture needs to be induced into respective societies or out needs to have a connecting factor to gain interest of the youth today.

“I think either within your society you induce so much culture that people become interested or make it very interesting… We are doing only classical… We could have few elements from abroad, their dancers and merge in other cultures too to make a festival more interesting for people today. If this happens more people will come to watch and be a part of the festival, the number needs to increase,” Mishra, who is also the recipient of ‘Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar’ from Sangeet Natak Academy, National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama from India, said.

He says that when it comes to a cricket match people go to watch in lakhs. Which he believes should be the scenario for classical arts as well now.

“Youth is there but less. But some places I see a lot of young crowd. I heard that IITs and IIMs has begun calling in classical dancers to perform there from different places but then they turned into Atif Aslam, Arijit… Okay you call them but then also call pandit Birju Maharaj, call Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and with them you call young artistes. This very important. To connect with youth you need young artistes,” he said.

“We younger lot have the spirit to connect with the youth. We can think from their mindset. We know what they like,” Mishra said.

Mishra says that today youth requires everything quickly.

“They want to understand and do things quickly. If in half-hour time I am expected to show bhav — radha going to get water, people won’t understand. You guide the youth in their way. Show what is the importance and attraction point to them. Only then the youth will connect. After that show them the details that this is also there. But if in the beginning you show them what takes time, the youth will lose interest and disconnect,” he said.

Giving the example of Pandit Ravi Shankar, Mishra shared that the former made classical dance famous on foreign shores with a connecting strategy. “He used to play for ‘Hippie’ people. They became his fans why because he would commence with a ‘Jhaalah’ with his Sitar. That would grain interest. After that he would show the real music.”

Mishra, who is known for taking 103 chakras in one go during performances says that it is appreciated more by the youth but criticised by the older generations.

“We need to make the youth understand, keep them interested as youth is the country’s future,” he said.

The Khajuraho Dance Festival will end on February 26.

(The writer’s trip is at the invitation of Ustad Alauddin Khan Sangeet Evam Kala Academy. Kishori Sud can be contacted at