"I DO not dream of becoming a dancer. I am a dancer and have always been a dancer. Dance is the ultimate reality, not a dream, of my life," said Mr Janak Khendry, who has been devoted to dance for more than forty five years.
He has given more than a thousand performances in various parts of the world including five command performances for two past Presidents of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Dr Radhakrishnan.
He said, "I did not decide to learn dance, but dance decided to become the most important part of my life."
He was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India. His formal dance training started when he was nine years old. For six years he studied Kathak dance style from Pandit Mahadev Kathak and for two years Manipuri dance style from Mrs. Aruna Gandhi. His Bharatanatyam dance training started in 1955 and is still going on. He has had the great honour of studying Bharatanatyam under the greatest Gurus of the 20th century - Swami Muttukumar Pillai, Mr. TK Narain, Mr. and Mrs. US Krishna Rao, Mrs. Kalanidhi Narayanan and Guru Kittapa Pillai. He also studied Modern Dance for two years at the Ohio State University.
He excels at choreographing works based on very rare philosophical subjects that have never been tried as dance works, blending several different Indian classical dance styles and creating a new and powerful dance vocabulary.
He said, "One needs the knowledge and the understanding of several dance styles and very strong powers of observation, to be able to create a dance vocabulary. The subject you are choreographing, and the dancers who are performing, and their training play a vital role."
His professional choreographic career started in 1961 when he was invited to choreograph a dance drama BASANT for Tagore's centenary celebrations. With the passage of time Khendry's works are becoming deeper in their philosophical approach.
He said, "There are the several reasons why my works are becoming deeper. In my way of thinking there are two ways an artist can work - either horizontally or vertically. The horizontal process is that you keep on doing what you are good at and comfortable with. The vertical process is that you keep climbing the steps of creation – sometimes you fall down or miss a step - but you keep trying and keep climbing.
I have chosen to climb the steps of creation vertically. Besides I do not like to create works based on the subjects that have been danced. At this point in my dance career I want to create works that have some universal message that I can convey to my audiences around the world through my dance creations. I also feel very strongly that we human beings have to reach out and touch each other and develop a better understanding for each other."
When Khendry is not creating, he is constantly choreographing the traditional Bharatanatyam repertoire for the Janak Khendry Dance Company which has more than 125 woks in its active repertoire.
He said, "My choreographic process starts with the selection of a rare philosophical theme that has never been danced before but has a universal message. After that comes the extensive process of research from one to four years or more, depending on the complexity of the subject. My choice of the music director is the next step. After the creation of the music, l listen to it for several weeks without creating a single step."
His recent works have stressed the messages of non-violence, self-discipline, human-equality and peace.
Khendry is recipient of several very prestigious grants and awards: Nizam's Grant and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in India. In Canada he has received Toronto Arts Council; Ontario Arts Council; Laid law Foundation; Ministry of Culture, Citizenship and Recreation; The Canada Council for the Arts and Canada's Year of Asia Pacific grants.
His four-day visit to Myanmar, the neighbour of his motherland, last month was his first and was really short. But he made good use of it by lecturing at a workshop on Indian and Myanmar classical dances at the Yangon University of Culture, learning Myanmar cultural and traditional dance and visiting Bagan, the archaeological treasure house of Myanmar.
He said, "I loved Myanmar and I had the most interesting and culturally fulfilling experience. I was touched by the kindness of the people, the art and the ancient monuments in Yangon and Bagan. I found the classical dances beautiful, graceful and very well presented. I was very impressed by the discipline and the standard of the students of the University of Culture in Yangon.
"I would love to come back to Myanmar, perhaps for a longer visit. I would very much like to present some of my dance creations. Also I would like to spend extended time with the dance students and the excellent faculty of the University of Culture."
The dance is not a dream, it is Janak Khendry’s life
By Aung Kyaw and Moe Moe Oo
The Myanmar Times, Yangon, June 27 and July 3, 2005