Priya Pawar, Indian classical dancer and founder of the Pushpalata Dance Company, began studying dance at the age of four. She is versed in two schools of Indian classical dance, Kathak and Odissi. Kathak, derived from the word ‘Katha’ or story, originated as a form of story-telling in Northern India and later flourished as two separate schools under the patronage of Mughal and Rajput kings. Odissi, the traditional dance of the state of Orissa, is mainly a form of devotional dance.
Throughout her career, Priya has studied under India’s leading teachers and exponents of Kathak and Odissi. Born and raised in Lucknow, India, Priya Pawar began training in Kathak at the age of four at the Bhatkande Maris Music College. She gained her degree or ‘Nritya Vishard’ in 1957 and continued studying Kathak individually from the renowned dancer Shombu Maharaj.
When she was seventeen, she received a Government of India scholarship to continue training in Kathak for three years at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in New Delhi where she obtained her ‘Nritya Varidhi’, or Master’s Degree in 1967.
During this period, she studied under Guru Sundar Prasad and Kundanlal Gangani in the ‘Jaipur Gharana’ style of Kathak, which grew out of the courts of the Rajput Kings. When already fluent in Kathak in her early twenties, Pawar became interested in Odissi, a dance of graceful and sculptural postures. She began intensive training for a year and a half with Guru Hare Krishna Behara and later with Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, one of Orissa’s foremost Odissi teachers and dancers.