Photo: Robert Bloomfield

The guru-shishya tradition in Indian culture is a system of mentoring in which teachings are transmitted from a guru (teacher) to a shishya (disciple).

Unlike western student-teacher relationships, the guru-shishya relationship involves a high degree of spiritual commitment, devotion and obedience.

It often begins with a structured initiation ceremony in which the guru accepts the initiate as a shishya and also accepts responsibility for the spiritual wellbeing and progress of the new shishya.

In Kathak, the guru-shishya relationship is of fundamental importance. Students should approach the study of Kathak with humility, an open mind, and respect for oneself and for the guru.

Balbir Singh’s guru is Padmashri Pratap Pawar. Popularly known as ‘India’s Divine Dancer’, Pratap is renowned as an outstanding exponent and teacher of Kathak. His personal style is unique, unostentatious, serene and characterised by an impeccable technique that blends precision in footwork with aesthetics and imagery.

Pratap Pawar is acclaimed for his work in bringing together different cultures by blending Indian dance with diverse traditions from around the world. He pioneered the concept of ‘East meeting West’ in the field of dance, and has been instrumental in developing a fusion of Kathak and Spanish Flamenco.

Pratap’s own guru is Pandit Birju Maharaj, from whom he received authentic Kathak instruction within the Lucknow tradition.

Explore the process

A lost art?
A bridge to India
Immersed in music
When Worlds Collide
The Idea (learning to dance)
Natural curiosity and questions (learning to dance)
Composer thoughts on Learning to Dance
In the presence of geniuses
The story (love and spice)
A dancer reflects on The Strategists (1)
Overview of The Strategists
Breakdown of The Strategists
Roundness of 12: a breakdown of the piece
Breakdown of the piece (love and spice)
Script (12)
Painter research
A dancer reflects on Love and Spice
Full Contact – highlights from the script
Dancer notes performance (flatlands)
Peacock Lake – genesis of the concept
Firing up the Mehfil Machine
The Collaborators
Creative Case – challenges along the way
The Guru-Shishya relationship
What is Kathak?
Life blood
Collaboration: Balbir & Gary
Colouring your emotions
Covid-19 Update on Monday, April 6th, 2020
Creative Case in action – July to September 2019
Finding my way in The Creative Spirit of John Curry
Talent Development – Abirami Eshwar
Talent Development – Kimberley Hardy
Collaborators: Lorna Brown and Gary Beacom
The Work: Act 1
The Work: Act 2
Planning the show
The 8 Dances
Who was Hans Krebs?
The Citric 
 Acid cycle
Balbir’s thoughts behind the work
Balbir on developing the work
Amrita Sher-Gil & Frida Kahlo
My favourite painting is. . .
Balbir reflects on The Two Fridas
Cast one
Devising in lockdown
Las dos Fridas
‘Alas Para Volar (Wings to Fly)’
Amrita – a story that lives in Art