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.