“Indian classical art is more than a hobby – it is a gateway to deep knowledge.
Stepping through that gateway requires commitment, discipline, and time.” – Pandit Chitresh Das
The Chhandam School of Kathak provides comprehensive education in kathak dance for students of all ages. Founded in 1980 in California by late kathak icon Pandit Chitresh Das, it is one of the first formalized kathak academies to be established in the United States. Its standard bearing teachings developed by Pandit Das across four decades in not just dance, but the rich music, theory, and philosophies of Indian classical art, has become a globally influential pedagogy.
Our curriculum at Chhandam creates an inspiring and challenging learning environment for students. In addition to weekly education with resident faculty, students receive invaluable opportunities to engage with India’s finest classical artists in performance and in the classroom. A range of performance opportunities supplement students’ training. Chhandam’s educational program reflects its commitment to helping passionate and talented individuals achieve their full potential as artists, leaders, cultural ambassadors and global citizens.
Chhandam’s artistic leaders are amongst today’s leading Indian classical music and dance artists and are senior torch bearers of Pandit Das’ lineage, including Artistic Directors Seibi Lee and Rachna Nivas, Guest Faculty Rina Mehta, Seema Mehta, and Sarah Morelli, and musicians in residence, Jayanta Banerjee, Debashis Sarkar, and Satyaprakash Mishra.
Values which guide our approach at Chhandam:
- Excellence through a standard bearing curriculum
- Holistic study of dance, music, theory, etiquette
- Deep teacher/student bonds
- Commitment to community
Our Nine Principles to guide each student’s journey through the dance:
1. “Sadvyavhar aur Tehzeeb” – Attitude and Etiquette
One must approach the study of Kathak with humility, an open mind, and respect for oneself and for the Guru.
2.“Prashikshan” – Study and training
All students must train in the four elements of Kathak: tayari (virtuosity of technique, speed, readiness), laykari (deep understanding of rhythm and timing), khoobsurti (beauty and grace), and nazakat (delicacy and subtlety) and also train in abhinaya, the art of mime and expression.
3. “Riyaz mehenat ke sath” – Systematic practice with deep exertion
The mantra at Chhandam is “Practice, Practice, Practice” with hard work and exertion.
4. “Sarvgyan” – Complete knowledge of kathak
To gain true knowledge of the art form one must also study Indian history, philosophy, mythology, the ancient Indian texts, Indian music, and the sophisticated mathematics involved in the Indian classical system.
5. “Upaj”- Improvisation
As the core of Kathak dance, Upaj leads to true freedom of expression and can only be achieved through training of the body, education of the mind, and riyaz with mehenat. Spontaneity is an integral aspect of everyday life – one must learn to be sharp, keen, and focused to handle life’s unexpected occurrences.
6.. “Shiksha, Prachar aur Suraksha Karna” – To educate, promote and preserve
In order to be a kathaka, a student must not only educate and train himself or herself, but must also promote and advocate for the art form amongst friends, family, in school, at work, and in the larger community and society. In doing so, students will ultimately preserve the tradition for generations to come.
7. “Tyaag aur Seva” – Sacrifice & selfless service
Through these teachings and training at Chhandam, students will ultimately adopt the values of selflessness and sacrifice. These values must manifest both within the context of their study of Kathak and also permeate in other aspects of their lives by giving back to their communities and the society by and large.
8. “Sadhana” – Devotional practice for life
When the dance becomes a spiritual practice, a way of life, it becomes sadhana. For example, inspired by the great sadhus and yogis of India, Pt. Das developed Kathak Yoga, a ground-breaking technique which takes Kathak into the realm of spiritual practice, requiring of the practitioner to bring mind, body and spirit into unified focus. In Kathak Yoga, the dancer simultaneously recites the nagma, plays an instrument, and executes complex mathematical patterns. Chhandam students from the beginning to advanced levels are trained in the technique of Kathak Yoga.
9. “Guru-Shishya Parampara” – Guru-Disciple Tradition
A “Guru” is “one who removes the darkness” through direct knowledge and training. Knowledge is imparted through the developing relationship between Guru and Disciple.