Kritika Sharma is a senior in high school and will soon be embarking her college journey in the fall. She started dancing perhaps as soon as she began walking, and from a young age has been very artistic taking interest in choir and piano as well. She formally began studying Kathak at the age of five and joined the Youth Company at nine making this her ninth year in the company, and 13 years dancing overall. She studied directly with Pandit Chitresh Das and his disciples and students and now continues to study under his senior disciple, Charlotte Moraga
Although there have been countless performances that left an impact on her, some of the most memorable are SF Ethnic Dance Festival 2012 and 2016, Deck the Halls at Davies Symphony Hall, collaborating with Japanese Taiko, and performing with Ritesh Dasji's Toronto Tabla Ensemble in 2015 and 2017.
Q: When do you first remember thinking that this dance was really something you wanted to pour your heart and soul into?
KRITIKA: After I entered the Youth Company, I began performing far more frequently and from a young age I was able to perform at prestigious events and locations without even knowing fully what an honor it was. My first time performing at the Ethnic Dance Festival was in 2012, and although I’d been dancing for many years before that, EDF was a performance that truly showed me how beautiful the world of dance was and how exhilarating it is to be on stage performing what you love.
Q: What is the thing you're most scared about?
KRITIKA: I’m scared about the stress or nerves I may feel on the day of the show, and how that may keep me from fully letting go and simply enjoying my time on stage. Performing and being on stage is by far the most liberating and amazing feeling, and even though performing solo is quite difficult, I want to be ready to the level where my dance just flows effortlessly.
Q: What is the thing you're most excited about with your graduating performance?
KRITIKA: I’m most excited about performing with an audience of close family and friends because there’s a certain warmth a known crowd brings in which contributes to the energy of the performance. I’m also excited to showcase this art for the dozens of people that have known that I dance for many years or perhaps just seen a video, but have yet to experience the power and beauty in person.
Q: What do you think people should know about what it's like to prepare for this performance?
KRITIKA: There’s so much more that’s going into the performance than what is seen on stage, and every single little movement, no matter how easy it looks, actually involves double or triple the energy and presence. The biggest challenge is creating the energy that an entire company of dancers creates just with your own body and dance. This means pushing yourself to present complex compositions while making them seem effortless, knowing entire backstories of characters so that they are portrayed exactly right, and always being aware and present yet also completely free while dancing.
Q: What is next for you with your dance? How will you continue your dance past youth company?
KRITIKA: What many of us don’t realize is how much Kathak has actually taught us about rhythm, music, and dance as a whole, and what an advantage we as Kathakas have moving forward. I would love to try out different dance forms in college and incorporate what I’ve learned in Kathak to develop myself as a stronger overall dancer, and even take formal college dance classes to deepen my knowledge further.
Q: What are three things you want people to come away from your performance with?
- I want them to simply feel appreciation for Kathak and Indian Classical music and art.
- I want them to understand the depth of Kathak dance and experience every element of it from the power to the delicacy, understanding of rhythm and beat, abhinaya, and creativity.
- I want them to be able to feel the same joy I feel from dancing and performing on stage.
Q: What has it meant to be a part of the Youth Company?
KRITIKA: Being part of the Youth Company has meant needing to be a strong independent dancer, a team member, and a leader all at the same time. It has also shown me the importance of being an ambassador of culture and heritage, and preserving classical art form in an unparalleled way.
Q: What do you hope for future Youth Company members?
KRITIKA: I hope that they realize how important Kathak is in their lives and in how it is so much more than just dance. It’s no secret that class can get long and exhausting, but the more you grow as a dancer, the more ways you see dance creating a positive impact on your life. Kathak develops character, a sense of confidence and presence, knowledge of one’s heritage, and the benefits of having this foundation of discipline, passion, and creativity will continuously appear in every aspect of your life. I hope that YC members will push through any moment that seems difficult and love every moment they spend on the dance floor because this journey is so fulfilling and irreplaceable.
Message to Dadaji (Pandit Chitresh Das)
I only wish I was able to pick up the phone like we did before every performance and tell you this in person, but you impacted my life in more ways than one and I think of you every time I step on the dance floor. I think we all went through a phase of being intimidated as “liliputs” when we were first introduced to your roaring personality and electric feet, but your humor and sock slides across the floor are what excited us to come to class every time. I soon realized, that your energy and passion would win us all over even more, as you showed us how Kathak was not just a dance form but a way of life. You drew out energy from within us that we did not know we had, and pushed us to limits we did not know even existed. It is because of you that I am able to stand on a stage alone and dance because I know you have given us the knowledge to be “American born confident desis,” not confused.
We of course learned a lot from what you were telling us in between Natavari Tihais or 108 chakkars, but what resonated with me the most was what you told us when we were sitting on the floor trying to catch our breaths. To dance or do anything for that matter because it made us happy, to keep our culture and heritage close, and to be strong and independent because we do indeed come alone and go alone. For this and so much more I am so thankful for all that you have given us, and I hope that I’ll make you proud.
Dedication to Charlotte Didi
The message I would like to leave Charlotte Didi is that I am so eternally grateful for her for not only teaching me to be a strong dancer, but a confident and knowledgeable individual as well. The fact that the three of us are able to take our first step in becoming a solo performer, is so largely due to her tireless effort and endless belief in us, and her energy and character never fails to inspire us in a new way. I feel so proud to have learned from her and Dadaji, and she truly embodies what it means to be an ambassador of heritage and the arts.
Kritika will be performing along with her guru sisters Shreya Khandewale & Shruti Pai at their graduating senior showcase, TRIVENI, on June 16 at 5 pm at Evergreen High School Auditorium in San Jose. Purchase Tickets