Kalamandir of NJ is a Classical Kathak dance school located in central New Jersey which aims to pass on the rich history of the North Indian classical dance as well as the specific technique of the Lucknow gharana. Under the guidance of Malabika Guha, students undergo rigorous and enlightening weekly training with the ultimate goal of becoming mature, poised “Katthakas,” or those who tell a story. While reflecting on the vast, mixed history of Kathak, which draws its influence from Hindu temples, Persian culture, and Mughal courts, Kalamandir also seeks to place Kathak on a progressive platform where the traditional aspects of its movement are intact, but the form is placed on both classical and classically-based contemporary music. With special weekly classes based in “nritta” (pure dance), “natya” (expressive dance), and contemporary composition, Kalamandir of NJ has successfully been running since 1986 and seeks to continue spreading the rich culture of Kathak for years to come.
Message From the Director – Malabika Guha
Still, to this day, I fondly remember my teachers from whom I’ve learned dance over the years: the late guru, Bela Arnob, Guru Bipin Singh, who passed away a few years ago, and many others such as Amala Shankar, P.B. Raghavan, Gyanprakasham, N.K. Shivashankaran, Balakrishna Menon, and Kalavati Devi.
Many years ago, when I started Kalamandir, I wanted it to be a school of dance and music, whose main theme would be art. “Art for art’s sake,” my teachers used to say. Over the years, my belief in this has only strengthened. Art should not have any boundaries. An artist should see beyond the four walls. Creativity, feelings, and a sense of freedom must be our driving forces; not religious, racial, or even linguistic differences. That is what I want to pass on to my students, as my teachers have done for me.
During the past 25 years, Kalamandir has performed in over 200 shows all across the United States. Besides New Jersey, we have been invited to perform in Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Long Island, Toronto, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. In 2004, Kalamandir was invited for a performance in London, England – as a dance troupe with the students of Kalamandir – being the school’s first performance abroad. After accomplishing our international performance, we were invited back to London for another prestigious performance, along with two other performances in Europe – Holland and Switzerland. In 2006, Kalamandir performed 5 shows in India, including cities like Shillong, Kolkata and Santiniketan. Uday Shankar’s festival in Kolkata, India – being one of the biggest festivals to take place in Kolkata – has invited Kalamandir for a performance. Our world has expanded enormously; I hope our hearts and minds are expanding as well.
I dream one day my students will feel the dedication I have seen in my guru’s eyes. They will experience the sensation of being immersed in a larger universe with a sense of creative joy as my teachers in Shantiniketan made me feel. And they will feel the team spirit and camaraderie I have felt as a part of Uday Shankar’s troupe. Greatest of all, they will feel the sense of freedom a true dancer always feels; a freedom above the mundane, the ordinary, and the four walls of our daily existence.>
-Weeknights in Manalapan, NJ
-Sundays all day in Kendall Park, NJ (Bharat Sevashram Sangha)
Gallery: Photos and Videos
To view more of the dance school’s performance videos, please click here.