February 01, 2014

Grace and strength mandatory

One trait common to all artists is complete devotion for their respective art forms. In fact, it is this act of surrendering their lives to the art form that encourages many to easily sail through the toughest of times. Dance as a performing art form is no different. Each dancer has his good, bad and ugly days that come in the form of appreciation, critical appraise and sometimes outright rejection.

To delve deeper into the lives of dancers, MTC talked to Delhi-based Chhau dancer Rajesh Sai Babu, who is working to restore the legacy of Chhau dance started by his father. Read on to know more as he talks about what all it takes to be dancer, his zeal for the medium and much more.

Tell us what interested you to become a Chhau dancer?


A: I come from a family of Chhau dancers. As a kid, I have been watching my dad perform in various festivals. My mother also motivated me a lot to continue with the family legacy of dance. So, I decided to go ahead and be a Chhau dancer.

What I like about the dance form is that the moment you hear the aggressive music, your feet start dancing to the tunes rhythmically.

Tell us about your first dance performance.


A: My first performance was in Delhi for a small bunch of people. I was very excited to perform. And when my performance finished, a lot of people applauded my performance and encouraged me to dance more. I felt very happy and now my entire family is on a mission to restore the dance form.

Tell us about your dance school Gurukul Chhau Dance Sangam. What style of Chhau dance do you teach at your academy?

A: My father, who is also my Guru started Gurukul Chhau Dance Sangam in 1999 with a team of 10 people. We specialize in Mayur Bhanj Chhau dance, where we don’t use masks. Rather, we express ourselves through body movements.

What are the essential ingredients of a Chhau dancer?


A: Pasion, pride, force, and love for dance. Other than this, a Chhau dancer should be strong with body movements and be graceful at the same time. Chhau dance has three patterns: Kalibhanga, Kalikatta and Hatiyar Dharra. The first one is used to express grace with body language, while the second one combines grace with forceful body movements. And in the third one, weapons are used in between the performance. The main weapons used are sword, shield, bow, spear and trishul. Also, a Chhau dancer should be like a warrior, who dances with all his grace and heart.

Which dancers inspire you?

A: My dad is a brilliant and outstanding guru. He has given a new dimension to mayur bhanj chhau dance in Delhi by experimenting with lyrics along with new instruments like violin, mridang and sitar. Now, both his sons including myself and my younger brother are spreading the legacy of our father, who is also our role model.

Any advice for students, who wish you pursue a career in dance?


A: Practice hard every day and enjoy dancing. Dance with all your heart and not just your feet. Aspiring dancers must understand that there would be incredible highs and lows in this profession and they must be prepared for it all. Along with this, immense faith and good understanding of ancient culture will also help in becoming good dancers. After all, dance and music are an excellent way to connect with God.

What are you currently doing? 

A: These days, I am teaching my students and passing our rich heritage of dance. Additionally, I work with my group of Chhau dancers for our forthcoming performances.

What are your future plans?

A: We intend to take Chhau dance on a global platform by conducting workshops, shows and conferences throughout the world. Also, we would like to bring people of our village to the city and provide them with a better platform for professional opportunities.

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