Bharatanatyam dancer and disciple of Late Guru V S Ramamoorthy and Guru Manjula Ramaswamy, Neha Singh says that her over two-decade long dance journey definitely is a roller coaster traverse. “Getting a bed of only roses is always not possible; thorns are an added reward. Each experience was a learning outcome,” she says. Speaking to Natyahasini, Neha says that the journey so far of 21 years into this divine art form donning different roles of a student, learner, teacher, guru etc. has been enjoying the roller coaster ride. “During this journey, I also started my dance institute in 2014 and named it “SaiNe Nrityalaya”, where I impart dance training to the younger generation. Awaiting life to unfurl many more surprises in this journey,” she says.
After completing Masters in Performing Arts – Bharatanatyam, from University of Hyderabad, Neha took up the job of a dance teacher in Delhi Public School. She says that there are limitations while teaching classical dance in school. “Bharatanatyam requires individual attention whereas in a crowd of 40 it becomes difficult. Hence for the purpose of teaching Dance in schools as a subject many alterations are required,” she says. The dance teacher shares that definitely there is lots of verbal theory involved while teaching classical dance in schools, but very less practical is involved. “Most of the teaching happens in fusion or folk-dance style. Free style dancing also is involved. Dance as a subject in school only gives an insight/briefing about a particular dance form, further it depends on an individual’s interest to take it up further to enrol in an institute outside school,” says the dance guru.
The DPS teacher says that she has students from other schools pursuing Bharatanatyam as an art form under her, but none from her own school. “Couple of my students training with me have approached me for further study in dance. Being a Certified examiner at Gandharva Mahavidhyalaya, I send my students for examinations every year giving them a scope for further studies in dance,” she says.
Many Opportunities: Neha agrees with the fact that many opportunities have opened up over the years in art forms, but at the same time she raises a pertinent point of – “How Many Parents Are Aware/Educated/Well Informed About These Opportunities?” Her observation is that these days the television plays a vital role in every family life, parents are aware or well-versed about Bollywood dancing or rather dancing for earning temporary fame, but how many are actually interested in getting their kids learn an Indian Classical Form. “May be a handful,” she says and quickly adds: “Making Dance a part of academics has justified in bridging this gap. Being a teacher at school, I find many parents showing interest towards learning an Art form or enrolling their kids into learning an art form outside school on a serious note,” says the classical dancer.
According to the dancer, it is also important for dance gurus to non-commercialize dance and teach this art form without losing its essence. “It becomes the responsibility of a Guru to explain the career opportunities and the benefits received by taking the art form to a higher-level. The dance Guru plays a vital role in bridging the gap too. It is also the responsibility of the national television channels, being largely viewed by the Indian population and being an influencer, to promote Indian Classical Dance by conducting exclusive Indian Dance competitions. Also, coming up with factors that contribute to bridging up the gap,” she says.
Had Backing Of Mom Always: Eager to know what was the reaction at her home when she picked to pursue dance as a career, Neha says her mom was happy with her decision of pursuing dance as a career. “She always knew that I was inclined toward arts and not really wanting to work in Corporate. Being an MBA graduate besides graduating MPA, my father wanted me to be a banker or at least get a white collared job in a Corporate. He wasn’t happy with my decision back then. Also, hailing from a North Indian family, he did not want me to even learn the South Indian dance form as he felt Dancers were looked down upon. Now, when he witnesses me doing justice to my career, he feels happy and proud of my decision of taking dance as career,” says the DPS teacher.
Neha was like any other kid in childhood. She always fantasized Bollywood dance. “Each time there was a song on television, I would instantly stand and start dancing. My mother observed this enthusiasm and enrolled me in Dance as a hobby and co-curricular activity. Being enrolled in a dance institute gave wings to my enthusiasm,” she says. Why Bharatanatyam, Neha admits that at that time neither she nor her mother had any idea about Indian Classical Dance. “A Tamilian aunty, who stayed next door, introduced me to my Gurus. Until I actually got into dancing, I didn’t know that I was learning Bharatanatyam. I was the chosen one by God and destined to learn this art form from my Gurus,” says the dancer.
High Regard For Her Gurus: Holding her Gurus in high-esteem, Neha says, she is fortunate to have been trained under the guidance of Guru Shri V. S. Ramamoorthy garu and Guru Smt. Manjula Ramaswamy garu at Sri Rama Nataka Niketan. “Guru Shri Ramamoorthy garu profoundly called as Master had been a very strong pillar of the institute. He was very strict and made sure we danced to perfection. He wouldn’t give up until he was happy with the way we danced. Teacher is an epitome of a motherhood to all students. She trains as a teacher and loves as a mother,” she states. In the same breath, she acknowledges the training received by Guru Pasumarthy Ramalinga Sastry Garu during her MPA course at Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication – University of Hyderabad in the year 2011-2013. “I had the privilege of learning various choreographies from him in the Kalakshetra Bani,” she says.
The DPS teacher says that performing ballets raising social issues interests her. “My students and I along with some guest dancers have performed a ballet – “ADRI – as hard as rock”. This ballet was based on photography work of photographer Shyam which targeted the social issue of a girl child (Adri) being a rape victim, who with the help of her mother (woman will power) rose to be as strong as a rock to fight the entire world just to say out loud that A Girl Is Not Weak, She Stands As Strong As A Rock.”
Favourite Stage: Neha reveals that Shilparamam Madhapur is her favourite performance place because of the beauty of stage, light, sound, ambience, a large floating crowd, reaching out to a large audience, warm welcome and scope for opportunities among many others. During the pandemic, she has kept herself motivated with lots of dancing and teaching. “Reading various articles related to dance keeps me going. Also, I listen to songs and choreograph them which can be used for any performance when required,” she says.
Advocating the learning of dance, Neha says: “It is a well-known fact that including other benefits, dance is also a very good physical and mental activity. I practice dance in any form to derive the maximum benefit, to enjoy and celebrate life, to express, to go beyond ecstasy. Dance had been my passion and today it is my profession. I owe the credit to my mom, gurus and of course dad (for the financial support). Today, I earn my bread and butter through dance and I am proud of it. I am proud of being myself,” she says. The dancer hopes that in future she would love to dance to address social issues and bring a change in society – minute at least, through her art form.