Shovana Narayan

A Unique Journey in Kathak

Shovana Narayan is not only India’s one of the most celebrated artiste of Kathak ‘par excellence’ but she is undoubtedly the undisputed reigning ‘Kathak Queen’ today! Every fibre of her body lives and breathes dance. An outstanding dancer, a consummate artiste and choreographer, she has blazed a trail in Kathak, bestowing it with dignity and enriching it with a deeper and wider canvas of expression and dimensions. Her name is not only synonymous with Kathak but also with ennoblement. Shovana is a visionary, who has amalgamated the best of both the worlds, the past and the present and who is leaving behind a legacy of believing and living a personal commitment. She displays an infectious zest for life but which rests on a solid foundation of rigorous training and sensitivity, deep thought, intensity and incredible hard work. She is individualistic, contemporary and ever dynamic, which make her performances mesmerizing.

The last three and half decades have seen her mesmerizing audiences in several national and international festivals in India as well as abroad.

In appearance, she represents a Mughal miniature and is a personification of elegance, sensitivity and grace, yet she is a storehouse of talent and a pillar of inner strength and determination, both of which succeed in endowing her with a strangely brilliant luminosity.

Shovana, one of the foremost and most celebrated disciples of the maestro, Pt. Birju Maharaj at Delhi, was initiated into Kathak as a child at the tender age of four, by the well-known dancer-actress of yester-years, Sadhana Bose at Calcutta and by Guru Kundanlal at Bombay. Her style represents a crystallisation of combined techniques acquired from the sophisticated elegance of the Lucknow gharana and the rhythmic precision of the Jaipur school. Her approach also bears the stamp of a mind influenced by the cultures of the world, projecting an individualistic attitude to the dance form that bring new pictures to the mind.

International Collaborations

Shovana has worked in collaborations with nationally and internationally known Indian and western dancers and musicians. Some of her choreographic works like “Moonlight Impressionism” to music of Ravel, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Vivaldi & Debussy, “The Dawn After” with dancers from Western classical ballet & Spanish flamenco, duets with an American tap dancer and with a classical ballerina as also works with noted dancers of various Indian classical dance styles, have been successful in bringing out the flavor of various dance forms and blending them into one harmonious language.

As a Guru

Shovana has emerged as a sensitive and dedicated guru, successfully imparting not only the skills of Kathak but also recognising the innate strenghth of each student performer and encouraging the growth of their individualties. A staunch believer in the Gurukul-parampara, Shovana imparts to her disciples not only details of Kathak but also her own sensitivities and message of love, righteous practices and trust, which makes an artiste humane. Here again she has successfully redefined the Guru-Shishya tradition and related it to the modern society. Her dedication as a guru of excellence can be seen in her disciples who have become acclaimed young dancers of the country. She imparts training in Kathak at her Asavari Centre of Dance situated in Delhi.

Shovana’s Asavari Dance Company

Shovana’s Asavari group is credited with many path-breaking works, whether they were sensitive portrayals of social issues or whether they were explorations of rhythmic dimensions in terms of sound-scapes and emotional-scapes! Also not lagging behind were revolutionary ideas in the Indian context such as dancing without ankle bells, use of English text, use of long skirts as part of choreographies or use of drums as part of dance movements and choreography. In a way, Shovana’s group choreographies and the banner of Asavari are synonymous and it is therefore no wonder that the Asavari group is often known as Shovana’s troupe!

As an Organiser

Her commitment to the preservation and propagation of the rich tapestry of Indian classical performing arts have turned her into a zealous and committed organiser of 2 well known annual Festivals, one featuring the famous maestros and the other Festival ‘Arpan’ providing a platform to the young, unknown but talented future torch-bearers of the tradition.

Deeply committed, involved and aware of people and their problems, she was deeply involved with the organisation and presentation of the first artists’ endeavor to help the families affected by the Kargil war in 1999, also responding to the call of introspection after the ghastly World Trade Tower episodes, in ‘Sound of Emptiness and Harmony’ along with Buddhist monks (2001) and yet again after the Tsunami disaster in a breathtaking endeavour ‘Artistes for Tsunami Relief’ (2005) for rehabilitation of Tsunami affected people.

Multi-hued ….. Films, Operas

Shovana’s canvass does not end in the medium of dance. Her palette contains other media, including films like “Akbar’s Bridge” (Hindi) and “Das Geheimnis des Indisches Tanz” (German), opera like “Ghalib ki Dilli” and ‘Wicchare Pani’ as well as research works on the development of dance in general and particularly Kathak.


Recognition came her way early by way of awards. Her creativity and contribution to the art has been admired and appreciated through numerous awards

Govt. of India President’s awards of “Padmashri” (1992) and “Sangeet Natak Akademi Award” (1999-2000).

Other awards include:

“Sahitya Kala Parishad Samman Award” of Delhi, “Indira Priyadarshini Award”. “Bihar Gaurav Award”, “Bharat Nirman Puraskar”, “Rajiv Smriti Puraskar”, “Shringar Shiromani Award”, “Oisca Award (Japan)”, “Rajdhani Ratna Award”, “Dadabhai Naoroji Award”, “IMM award for Excellence”.

The Path Breaker & the Role Model

Shovana Narayan is a classical example of a true Kathak, multi-faceted, successful and dynamic, and presents a challenge to today’s spectator. Her life and her works have made her a role model and peer for millions of girls of the younger generation of today.

Shovana Narayan














Shovana Narayan