Guru Pali Chandra has played a crucial role in taking Kathak to a global audience unaware of its existence. Her productions represent some of the most extraordinary tales from folklore, seamlessly transitioned into a palatable avatar for a modern audience. Her foray into the digital world revamped the entire classical dance multiverse, revolutionizing the whole concept of a gurukul.
Some flowers are meant to bloom. Similarly, Guru Pali Chandra was simply meant to dance. It is deeply rooted in her essence, she admits. And ardent fans of her art shall be glad to know that she dedicated her entire life to this beautiful art form.
Kathak is centered around the art of storytelling, and Guru Pali Chandra is among its greatest exponents. But Pali Chandra's journey actually began in Mohiniyattam, as that was the discipline of choice of her very first dance teacher. Young Pali was enamored by her teacher's loving and open-armed deposition, and this experience has defined her approach to teaching to this day.
Her tryst with Kathak began at the Lucknow Gharana, where she was raised under the watchful eyes of Guru Vikram Singh. A native of Sri Lanka, his path in Kathak had many challenges, but he overcame each one heroically. He immediately recognized his student's rare talent, convinced that he was in the presence of a prodigy. She would initially resist formal dance training but eventually succumbed to its charm. He taught Pali the limitless scope of art and how a teacher must deconstruct a topic to make things easier for the student.
To further fine-tune his ward's progress, Guru Vikram Singh would pass the baton to Pt. Rammohan Maharaj, cousin to the legendary Pt. Birju Maharaj. He would further develop upon the core foundation of Kathak that was now firmly established. To polish and refine the final product, Pali Chandra would receive further training under the watchful eye of Shri. Kapila Raj, a prominent figure in the Lucknow Kathak arena. These gurus together ensured that a young Pali was now ready to burst into the limelight.
After years of arduous effort, Pali Chandra was officially ready to debut as a professional Indian classical dancer. She performed at national and global competitions, reaffirming her teacher's faith in her abilities with many awards and victories. Here she learned the art of absorbing the traditions and practices of different places, the nuances of being a professional, and the street smarts of filtering and accepting criticism.
After traveling across the world, she decided to take the next step in her journey in London. Here he grew and evolved based on the feedback of her viewers and performers. The direct interaction with a knowledgeable audience further sharpened her skill, as she honed the mental and physical fortitude that she is renowned for today. The fourteen years she spent with the British community armed her with the expertise to further the cause of Kathak globally. She had gained valuable insights into the workings and functioning of the dance world.
During her years as a student, the Guru Pali Chandra noted that artists suffered from the lack of resources that aided the entire process of a classical performance. Guru Pali Chandra sought to catalog and preserve all aspects of a Kathak recital from the pre-production phase to the actual demonstration. She finally found willing participants in her dream when she stumbled upon Invis Multimedia in Kerala, and a digital swansong began. The first collaborations were Kathak DVDs that were released in the early 2000s and instructional videos on www.indiavideo.org, a video encyclopedia on India. These were met with widespread acclaim, and it was apparent that there was a desire for such content.
Bolstered by this success when streaming was not a popular buzzword, she launched www.learnkathakonline.com, a dedicated portal for Kathak education. The response was overwhelmingly positive and led to further demands for a whole new channel dedicated to learners in Hindi. This lead to the birth of 'Kathak in Hindi' (Kathak Shikshan Online), among the foremost storehouses of digital Kathak education.
Pali Chandra shifted to Dubai from London and immediately noticed that Kathak was thoroughly underrepresented in the area. Instead of lamenting about the situation, she took it upon herself to provide a solution. She established the Gurukul, a school where dance is taught as a skill rather than a mere hobby. She combined the tenets of her teachers with her own vision of using dance as a vocation to aid the modern-day dancer. She began with two students, and today, thousands of young dancers pay homage to her time-trusted methodology. Her center is the biggest of its kind in all of Dubai, and she has established Gurukuls in Switzerland and Bangalore as well.
The Gurukuls attract students from all walks of life, and teachers are instructed to create tailor-made plans for each based on their specific needs. The dancer brings a concept they wish to work upon, and the Gurukul offers the guiding hand that helps them reach their goal. Residency programs are also offered here to aid the student further. Guru Pali's dream is to enshrine the code of nritya into the next generation, the way she received them from her Gurus. Her style is her own creation, a blend of the past with shades of what is to come, interspersed with a healthy dose of a lifetime spent in devotion to dance. She is an ambassador of Kathak, a symbol of the unifying power of the artform.
Her experience with Invis Multimedia, her repertoire in online teaching, and her love for Indian classical dance make her a natural partner for the NatyaSutraOnline project. Her ideas have played a crucial role in facilitating a web portal covering all indigenous classical dances, music, and culture. This platform is the organic evolution of a journey that began with a mutual desire to preserve our country's heritage nearly two decades ago. Guru Pali Chandra is the epitome of India's revered 'guru shishya parampara'.
Guru Pali Chandra is the Chairperson of the Board of Advisors and the Chief Mentor for NatyaSutraOnline. Her input and directives have aided this venture since its inception. Her forays into the digital education sphere helped her introduce traditional nritya to a virtual market. The NatyaSutraOnline team gains inspiration from her unique perspective and enduring zeal. As a global dance visionary, she spearheads our attempt to bring Indian classical to every household worldwide.
Presently she helms Gurukul Studios in Dubai, Switzerland, and Bangalore as their Artistic Director. In London, the House of Commons awarded her the title of Best Art Director for her production 'In The Shadow Of The Hills', and she received the Women of Excellence Award 2013 in Abu Dhabi. Be it Oxford, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford, Seattle, London School of Contemporary Art, or the Berlin Museum, her workshops attract large crowds of Kathak aficionados. Her online classes are split into levels that are easily accessible to a multitude of students, based on their previous training in Kathak. She has the rare accomplishment of training the highest number of students in the Kathak syllabus of Imperial Society for Teachers of Dancing, UK.
As a performer and choreographer, her spectacular shows have enthralled audiences globally. Her brilliance in classical and contemporary genres has earned her several laurels, including the Lachhu Maharaj Award for exceptional mastery of abhinaya (the art of expression). A fantastic teacher who pays attention to every detail, Guru Pali Chandra has mentored thousands of young dancers, both physically and digitally. Her unique style of coaching emphasizes tailored modules based on the capacity and skills of students. Over the years, she has crafted this art and helped several students globally to perform on various prestigious platforms.
She has collaborated with diverse art forms such as Flamenco, Tap, Western Contemporary, Ballet, and Bharatanatyam. The collaborations are known to blend the techniques and ideologies of the respective dance forms seamlessly.