Youth Voices Interview: At CDI we believe in the power of the youth. They are the future and there is much they can teach us. Keep on the look out for more from Youth Voices--amplifying the voice of youth.
Vanita will be performing her graduating Chitresh Das Youth Company solo after eight years of study, most intensively under Pandit Chitresh Das and Charlotte Moraga. In this interview she talks about her beloved Dadaji (Pandit Chitresh Das) and gives some insight on her journey of learning the North Indian classical kathak tradition and the philosophy and teachings of Pandit Chitresh Das.
Question: When do you first remember thinking that this dance was really something you wanted to pour your heart and soul into?
Vanita: I remember when I was taking classes at the Sacramento branch, there was a really cool step I learned with Dadaji. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact step but I remember Dadaji giving us pep talks and telling us to be stronger.
What is the thing you're most scared about?
Vanita: Losing my culture and heritage if I do not practice it.
What is the thing you're most excited about with your solo?
Vanita: To show how hard I have been working for the past 8 years and how I integrated all of what what I have learned. My inspiration came when I saw Dadaji perform “India Jazz Suites” and I thought, "Can someone really do so many chhakars (pirouettes) at once, on stage, in front of hundreds of people and not get nervous?" Then I saw Sonali Didi's performance where I talked to Dadaji backstage. He told me, "If you lillyputs want to do this kind of solo, then you have to keep practicing, and I know you can do it."
What do you think people should know about what it's like to prepare for this solo performance?
Vanita: It is a lot of work but if you have had a constant reyaz or practice, then you just have to make it unique. You have to constantly practice everyday, you have to research, you have to know what you are doing and be able to explain anything if anyone asks.
What is next for you with your dance?
Vanita: I would like to take classes other art forms and possibly perform with them. Additionally, I will take any opportunity to perform in the community. And lastly I would like to eventually start my own classes for kathak.
What are a few things you want people to come away from your solo performance with?
Vanita: (a) To appreciate the arts and to keep them alive by going to see more performances like these; (b) To understand Dadaji’s tradition, innovations, and hard work he did with all his students.
What message would you want to send to Dadaji and to Charlotte Di?
Vanita: To Dadaji: I do wish he was here, but I am mostly grateful for all the memories he shared with me. The best part was being from Sacramento and coming all the way to the Bay Area for classes because I gained stories that many others did not. But I do remember getting his blessings and I have always remembered his teachings.
To Charlotte Didi: Thank you for giving me this opportunity to do a solo and taking your time out of the day to correct all my mistakes no matter how many times I made them. Thank you for believing in me and teaching me for the past 5 years.
You can witness this next generation kathaka, Vanita Mundhra, perform this Friday, June 23rd at 8pm at the Oshman Family JCC, Cultural Arts Hall in Palo Alto. She will be accompanied by accomplished musicians: Ben Kunin on sarode, Samrat Kakkeri on tabla and her guru sisters, Kritika Sharma on manjira, Atmika Sarukkai on bansuri and Ishani Chakrabarti on harmonium. Tickets are available here