Shreya Khandewale - Senior Youth Company Member

Shreya Khandewale first began studying Kathak when she was 5 years and joined the youth company in 2011, studying directly with Pandit Chitresh Das and his disciples and students. She currently studies under Charlotte Moraga. Since joining the Youth Company, Shreya has performed at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and at the International Association of Blacks in Dance National Conference in Los Angeles and in collaboration with Eden Aoba Taiko.

Q: When do you first remember thinking that this dance was really something you wanted to pour your heart and soul into?

SHREYA: I had always loved to sing and dance, and I remember one class very early on, where we were dancing the Kavita and Kaliya Daman. We were dancing, and I was enjoying myself so much, not thinking about perfecting the movements, or avoiding messing up — I was blissfully dancing, in the moment. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I now know that was the moment where I realized how special Kathak was to me. 

Q: What is the thing you're most scared about?

SHREYA: This solo is my most personal performance to date. Being vulnerable on such a large level, and attempting to convey myself through a medium like dance is daunting, and I hope to deliver the best and most authentic performance possible. 

Q:  What is the thing you're most excited about with your graduating performance?

SHREYA: After performing tarana at several venues, it feels pretty weird to say that I’m most excited to perform tarana at the performance. But all jokes aside, I truly am most excited about tarana — not only because it’s the grand finale, but also because we have the most experience with it, and we’re excited to make it uniquely our own.

Q: What do you think people should know about what it's like to prepare for this performance?

SHREYA: Preparing for this performance has taught me so much about myself and Kathak as an art form. Working with Charlotte Didi to conceive and choreograph all my pieces has given me a deeper understanding of the roots and tradition of Kathak. However, going through this process has shown me that reading and research are just as important as the riyaaz itself. 

Q: What are three things you want people to come away from your performance with?

SHREYA: I hope to leave the audience with a piece of myself. Through my vandana, I want to convey my singing background, singing Indian classical music while dancing. Through my thaat, I hope to convey my love for math and rhythm, with intricate compositions. And finally, through my special Natwari Tihais piece, I hope to convey tradition, juxtaposing different styles of Kathak. 

Q: What has it meant to be a part of the Youth Company?

SHREYA: Dancing with the Youth Company has been such an incredible experience. First and foremost, training directly under Dadaji for several years fueled my passion for dance, and inspired me to spread that passion to each and every part of my life. Learning from Dadaji and all my teachers over the past seven years in the Youth Company has made me not only more aware of myself, my body, my voice, and my internal rhythm, but also given me a new family and a unique sisterhood. 

Q: What do you hope for future Youth Company members?

SHREYA: Although taking the plunge into the solo process was slightly daunting, I hope that all Youth Company members decide to pursue a solo! Despite all the difficulties and stumbling points, the solo has been one of the most rewarding experiences ever, and it has given me two of my best friends and tons of unforgettable memories. 

Message to Dadaji (Pandit Chitresh Das)

Dear Dadaji,

“Three questions asked.” I remember sitting in the back of my very first Youth Company class, taking in the awkward silence that followed those words. In the weeks that followed, I would continue to be afraid, to hide in the back and feel guilty for not asking a question. But those silences encouraged me to think and reflect. 

Over the past seven years, I’ve finally realized why you were so insistent on questions. I’ve realized that those last ten or fifteen minutes were often the most important of the entire class, that you wanted us to leave your classes not just with a greater understanding of dance, but a greater understanding of life. I’ve realized that you wanted us to cast aside complacency to learn on our own terms — to seek and question, rather than to accept.  

So thank you, Dadaji, for encouraging me to be curious and inquisitive. Thank you for helping me feel confident and strong in my own body. Thank you for your endless pursuit of excellence, not just from yourself but from everyone around you. But most of all, thank you for teaching me to never settle. Your passion, dedication, and joy for dance and everything around you have always inspired me, and will continue to inspire me everywhere I go.

Love always, Shreya 

Dedication to Charlotte Didi

Charlotte Didi, thank you for everything. Without your guidance throughout my Youth Company Journey, I would not be here, performing. Thank you for putting your heart and soul into the Youth Company — for not only coming up with the most incredible choreographies, but also teaching us the significance of everything we were dancing and learning in the process. Thank you for always having such a strong vision, and always encouraging us no matter how difficult the process. But most importantly, thank you for always believing in me and teaching me to believe in myself.

Shreya will be performing along with her guru sisters Kritika Sharma & Shruti Pai at their graduating senior showcase, TRIVENI, on June 16 at 5 pm at Evergreen High School Auditorium in San Jose. Purchase Tickets