So a lot of you who know me, probably only know the fact that ive been a bellydancer for 15 years now running an academy, teaching, performing and all that jazz but there’s a lot much more to me than that, like tonnes more. And im gonna pour it all out here starting with the fact that im an electrical engineer (yes, you heard that right)!
So I did my electrical engineering from 2006-2010 in Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Technology from my home city - Bangalore, India. But how and where did all the dancing come from? What was it like when I started?
My first ever dance lesson was when I was 5 years old. My parents had enrolled me for a “KOLAATA” dance class which is a regional folk dance with pots & sticks as you can see in the images here. Can you spot me? Im the one with short hair, wearing a brown skirt and white blouse. I dont have much memory of learning this dance except for the fact that It was a summer vacation course and it happened in ‘Baal Bhavan’ (childrens arena) over about a month and it culminated in a showcase which these pictures are of.
Neither of my parents have been trained in dance or have ever danced on stage or anywhere else, except for my father, who danced casually at weddings. So for them it was such a proud moment to see their 5 year old put up a show on the stage. My mother always had this one track mind to have me learn all kinds of dance forms and excel at extracurricular activities even at school. So she has played a very pivotal role in my dance career thus far.
Moving on to the following years until I turned 15, I was in countless dance classes offered at school or the ones my parents put me into every year during summer holidays nearby to where we lived. Ive learnt Rajasthani Kalbeliya Dance & the Maharashtrian Laavni dance from among the Indian dances and Hip-hop, Contemporary, Jive from among the so called ‘Western Dances’. Back then we only knew dance forms classified into two categories “Western & Indian” ! Its only now that we’ve gotten more knowledgeable of various dances and its origins and stylistic and artistic differences.
Learning various dances was one thing but performing at a gazillion opportunities was another! I dont think I ever missed signing up for a dance competition or a cultural event. Ive represented my school in tonnes of inter-school dance competitions, performed in our community functions like the Annual Durga-puja or Saraswati-puja programmes, hosted and performed in our mini neighborhood events during new-years eve or Ganesh festival celebrations etc. I was always proactively taking part in organising the show, from printing flyers to emceeing to delegating tasks to choreographing to putting makeup for everyone and literally everything. All this training really helped me when I started to become a professional bellydancer. I was running the show left, right and centre like I was born with it !
Dance as we know it today is completely different from the way it used to be back then. We didnt have mobile phones that recorded the performances nor our practice sessions. Everything just had to be captured in our heads and we just practiced whatever we remembered, apart from a regular camera that was meant only to click pictures that we had to get developed from the film. I still remember going to the photostudio after every dance performance or birthday party or sports day or graduation day to get the pictures developed into hard copy photos. But to be honest now i think that time was a lot better coz we only clicked moments that mattered unlike now when we have hundreds of double and triple copies that mostly make up for digital trash that we dont have the time to declutter these days, sigh! And even memory wise, we had better attention span and memory coz we know we just gotta remember it, no recordings to refer to! So there was more focus and concentration and involvement in the moment as we practiced our dances.
I wonder where the times now is gonna take us. With attention spans getting shorter by the day, cut throat competition to grab the eye balls of the consumer within the first 10 seconds of your advert or your dance or act, digital consumption getting overwhelming exponentially, phew! Im constantly having conflicting thoughts whether to stay old school or give in to these ‘trending’ new ways to exist and stay afloat in the industry. Well, but thats a whole topic for another day!
So just before Bellydance could hit me in 2006, I was already into teaching dance to little children. I used to teach a bunch of 5-6 kids at the house of one of the kids and multiple batches about twice a week. This gradually snowballed into full fledged progressive classes for children that i eventually ended up running in a studio space & this kinda laid the foundation for me when I was gonna start teaching bellydance too.