INDIAN KATHAK GURU ETCHES HER FOOTPRINTS IN TRINIDAD
Photo : Srimati Pooja Malhotra
Port-of-Spain: The Pratibha Arts Dance Company, formed in Trinidad and Tobago in 2014, is the brainchild of President and founder Guru Srimati Pooja Malhotra, originally from Koral Badh, New Delhi
“It represents her lifelong dream and commitment to Indian Classical Dance. At Pratibha Arts we believe that holistically developed children are key instruments of a successful society. Our vision of honoring the past, achieving in the present and creating the future is personified in our productions, which continually push the envelope of Kathak dance,” Pooja said
“Our main objective is to create skilled performers and perhaps most importantly, that they become intelligent advocates of this art form, taking it into the next century. We are committed to fostering the spirit of growth, diversity and evolution of Kathak, through our classes, workshops and productions. By fusing this old art form as we have done with Steel Pan, Ballet, African Drums and Flamenco to name a few, ensures its perpetuation and relevance in today’s modern arts society. One avenue by which we achieve our objective is the annual dance recital, which showcases the accomplishments of all the dancers from the beginners to advanced students,” she pointed out in an interview.
Pooja underlined that Kathak is one of the major classical dance forms of India and it has its origin in the remote temples of Northern India, steeped in divinity. It later flourished in the courts of the Mughal emperors and evolved into a chamber art having the technique and expression in predominance.
In 2016 Pratibha Arts created history in the art of dance when it hosted the Rangmanch Pravesh
(Graduation Solo Recital) of Smt. Yogita Singh. “This was the first ever graduation to be
held in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean for a classically trained Kathak dancer,” Pooja said.
Malhotra holds a Master’s of Art Degree in Kathak Dance, a Master’s degree in Economics, and a Bachelor’s degree in Education.
She began dancing at the age of four under her first Guru, the late Shri Chaman Lal Khanna, and during her early years, she excelled and won many competitions and awards such as the coveted Bal Shree Award and performed at the residences of the Prime Minister and President of India.
In 1980, she joined the world famous Kathak Kendra and studied Kathak under Guru Shrimati Reba Vidyarthi for 11 years. Pooja flourished into a confident, talented and leading exponent of the Lucknow Gharan style of Kathak. In 1991, she pursued a post graduate Diploma in Kathak under the guidance of Padam Vibhushan, the living legend of Kathak. Pooja was also given the opportunity to perform in India, South Korea, Italy, Indonesia, London, Canada, North America and the Caribbean
After teaching for 31 years, Pooja founded the Pratibha Arts Dance Company with the aim of promoting and perpetuating the Art of Kathak.
Pooja continues to push the boundaries creating blended fusions of Kathak with Trinidad’s National Instrument, the Steel Pan, Hip Hop, African Drums, Ballet and Flamenco. Her most recent assignment was the post of Kathak Dance tutor cum performer at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Co-operation (MGICC) in Trinidad. Pooja now resides in Trinidad and promises to further enlighten the local populace with this intricate, but spiritually charged art.
She is holding two majestic performances entitled, “Arpan” at the Central Auditorium and “Sangam” at Divali Nagar. “Sangam” is an annual dance recital which showcases students of Pratibha Arts from beginners to advanced students. The show includes Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Bollywood, Salsa, and Folk Dances of India, Hip Hop.
Trinidad’s internationally named Nalini Akal with the N9 Dancers and renowned local singer, Kavesh Maharaj, form part of the show.