Ines prepares for life as Kathak dancer in India

New Delhi: It was love at first sight for Ines Smiljanic, a danseuse from Croatia who began treating Kathak as a way of life after meeting Pandit Birju Maharaj and now wants to continue a lifelong romance with the dance form.

Ines, who goes by her spiritual and artistic name Radha Madhavi, says she is "truly inspired" by Indian philosophy and Hindu religion. "Kathak was the first classical Indian dance that I had the chance to see performed live. It was love at first sight. As a dancer I was impressed by the complicated dance technique, which requires tremendous sense of rhythm, graceful body movements, fast pirouettes and mesmerising footwork," says the 27-year old dancer.

"I passionately wanted to learn Kathak, but soon I realised that it is endless, that you have to take it as a life time journey. It requires great discipline, dedicated practice and a lot of patience. Kathak has really taught me how to be patient," says the Croat who is gearing up to join the National Institute for Kathak in New Delhi this year.

"It is really beautiful to live your dream, but at the same time it includes lots of sacrifices, hard work, frustrations and pain too. But, pain is only temporary and at the end of the day when you realise that you are doing what truly fulfills you, it`s all worth it. Really, Kathak is not just a dance form, it` s a way of life!"

The dancer says if it had not been for the personal training from Pt Birju Maharaj, she definitely would not have taken considered making Kathak as her profession.
"Panditji encouraged me to continue my Kathak studies in India. I was impressed by his simplicity and amazing character. It was really wonderful to work with him, but at the same time, I felt a bit intimidated and those were some of the most challenging moments of my life," she says.

The Zagreb-born dancer has strong roots in contemporary dance and classical ballet, and began learning Kathak in 2005. She took admission in Kalashram Academy in Delhi in 2007 to study under Pt Birju Maharaj.

She, however, confesses that she found it difficult to promote and popularise the Indian dance form in far away Croatia despite performing intensively across the country. "It was quite difficult to popularise Kathak in Croatia, because there aren`t many dancers with whom I could share and further promote this art form," she says.

"I have intensively been performing in Croatia and had the opportunity to present Kathak at various music and dance festivals. Besides Croatia, I performed in India, as well as in the UK, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Bosnia and Hercegovina etc."

On what she likes most about India, Ines says she had been attracted to Indian philosophy, culture and art and had been an active participant of yoga since the age of 12. "What I really liked in India is how artists truly live their art. It is incorporated every aspect of their lives. And definitely, the warmth and hospitality of the Indian people," says Ines who is currently preparing for her new life in India.

She is also preparing for her final examination in pilates at the University of Kinesiology and for a Kathak lecture demonstration at the 4th Middle European Student Indology Conference (MESIC) scheduled to be held from May 17 to May 19 at Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb, Croatia.