Seetal Kaur combines her love for rhythm and music with swift movement and emotive expression as a Kathak dancer. She was trained in Bharatnatyam and vocal music from a young age.
As a result of the pandemic her routine changed. Seetal Kaur said, “As an Indian classical artist, I was happily involved in training from one of my teachers who lives in Liverpool and I live in Leicester, so I was traveling three hours in one go each month to train under her. I spent a month in India training in Delhi. And I just got back at the end of January. I was getting ready to perform at the New York Kathak festival so I was selected to perform in April. So I’d booked all my flights, rehearsed very hard, pushing myself physically mentally and it was suddenly gone.” And afterwards when everything started to close down she had to cancel her trip to America.
Kaur treats her ‘Riyaaz’ as the utmost priority and dedication everyday. “It's a very insular and introverted kind of lifestyle,” she said. Alongside her practice, Seetal works professionally in arts development and administration through her initiative, 'ForwardCulture' that creates projects to empower young South Asian women and platform South Asian female artists.
Kaur acknowledges that while Kathak is not her source of primary income, there are many artists whose lifeline is in dance, networking, and performing. She also identifies the technical challenge of doing online performances. She has been approached to do them and has been only able to do it with her family’s support because she has the required equipment at home.
Seetal teaches only a few people online, via Skype, Whatsapp video or Zoom call. She agrees that many technical problems come up, but, “Verbal instructions are important, especially mirroring. Your left hand becomes your right hand. So it's tricky but at the end of the day it's better than nothing.”
Kaur said that before this pandemic, some people turned their nose up a bit at online teaching. She said, “There's nothing like being physically present with your guru. Online is a second best option, it's not a solution. I do think it's really important to hold the physical presence and relationship paramount. That stays the first and best option.”
Her advice to freelance artists would be to observe the online shift. Kaur, who is not too active and social media savvy online, said, “You have to start to get comfortable or social media platforms. Artists have to embrace it. Social media is too much for me.” Despite her absence from social media, whether discoverability has been an issue or not, she says, “Word of mouth is the strongest.”
As far as the UK art package to revive art is concerned, Seetal said, “When you look at the wider context, Black and asian people are a minority ethnic in this country. When people look at a certain financial figure in the grand scheme of things it does look like the communities get a bigger pie out of it. I think there is work to be done. The press and media when they talk about arts, most of the time they talk about western classical music, theatre or ballet. We have to shift the focus and value of ethnic minority arts and the fact that such kinds of cultural forms that exist in the UK don’t get the recognition they deserve.”