Alaina Roy: The Kathak Dancer-Teacher Dismantling Barriers One Tukra At A Time

Alaina Roy is out to change the game. The classical kathak dancer is among the new generation of Pakistani artists, leveraging her platform to shape the perception of dance in Pakistan. She’s caught the world’s attention many times with her graceful performances including the Kalashram competition in London. “I think the more people start to create awareness of the art in Pakistan, the more people who are interested will start to speak about kathak and start to speak about classical dance. I think that would really help our people to understand what it actually is,” she shared over the phone.

With limited to no teachers actively teaching the discipline in Pakistan, when Alaina first moved to the country, she decided to take it upon herself to become a teacher, a job that has proved to be just as challenging as being a kathak dancer in a country like Pakistan.

Here the dedicated dancer talks about creating a space where the art of kathak is understood and what she has in store next.

On being a teacher

I haven’t really marketed the fact that I teach kathak because a lot of people are just negative. My challenge is to mostly make people understand that kathak is as an art. To be able to keep the art form alive you need to have teachers who have the correct knowledge which unfortunately in Pakistan is very limited.”

On modernity

In kathak you’re not allowed to use your hips, you’re not allowed to use your chest, you’re not allowed to use your shoulders but if you watch a lot of Bollywood – there are a lot of new videos that are coming out; you see the people do this fusion kind of thing where they’re shaking their hips at the same time so in that sense it’s really sad because kathak has gone from what it was, the traditional aspect to something different”

On experimentation

“In terms of experimentation, I’ve always wanted to collaborate with a lot of artists, a lot of musicians so for me that would be an experiment which – a lot of stuff is in talks but then again it’s just one of those things that takes forever. I’m completely open to experimentation but I’m also not open to completely ignoring the tradition and then doing something completely contemporary.”

On the future

“It’s one of those arts that is so beautiful to watch that I think slowly it’s going to be at the forefront of a lot of things, again just like in Pakistan, it’s going to take its time to get there. Until it’s something that’s regimented you know, maybe if kathak classes were introduced into studios that we have, like we have MAD school and Body beat then it would become one of those things that people think, oh this is normal.”

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