Tell us about the philosophy behind dance as a tool for expression.
AP: Dance is communication through music, body gestures, expressions leading to a graceful storytelling. A dancer has to make sure that she portrays everything through her body and take the audience along with her into a different world.
Learning Kathak requires a lot of hard work, perseverance and discipline. Tell us about your journey. How did you get started?
AP: My family has an artistic background and therefore I had the privilege of watching performances of some great artists in India. My formal training in dance started when I was in 7th grade. My first Guru, Smt. Amala Shekhar, used to teach in one of the most renowned dance schools of Pune. I was focused and my parents made sure that my classes were given top priority. I love being on the stage.
When I moved to America, I continued to take classes when I went to India. Dance was always with me. I did not want to let go of all the years of practice. Since I did not have a teacher, I had to make sure even though no one was watching me I kept pursuing it with practice. Right now, I take classes on Skype with my Guru, Smt. Maneesha Sathe.
What is it that moves you most as a teacher?
AP: The interest and passion that my students show in learning Kathak, pushes me to work harder as their teacher. Students here do not have the same references that I had as a child, yet they have the hunger to learn. I am always thinking of ways in which I can give them something new, something more, something that will mold them as better dancers.
What is the most challenging thing about being a dance teacher?
AP: Questions that have no definite answers like, “How many years will it take for my child to become a dancer?” annoy me the most. Art is not a commodity that can be bought, gauged or measured in terms of money or time spent.
What is your message for other Kathak dancers?
AP: I feel all dancers should stay true to the art form. I find a lot of people taking shortcuts to be popular, make more money or for other reasons. Look out for good platforms to showcase talent and art. Don’t choose platforms which will make the form lose its dignity. Classical dancers are not entertainers, we are artists. Try to propagate and create a deeper understanding of this traditional dance form.
When can we see your next performance?
AP: I will be performing on 25th May in the San Francisco International Arts Festival at Cowell theatre.
To learn more about Ashwini and her dance classes, please visit http://www.ashwinigogate.com
Surabhi Kaushik is an Indian writer, based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Her works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and parenting essays have been published in various websites such as yourstoryclub, halfbakedbeans, herviewfromhome and India Currents. She is closely associated with “Write Like You Mean It,” a writer’s group in the Main library, Charlotte. She also leads a monthly Fiction Writing workshop and conducts writing workshops at various libraries across Charlotte, North Carolina.