Dance as a career and how to go about it? Interview with Leena Ketkar

Tell us a bit about yourself 

  • I am a trained Kathak Dancer and running my own institute for the past 15 years.
  • An examiner at Gandharva Mahavidyalay for Kathak Dance Exams.
  • I have judged various dance competitions at city levels and participated in many state and national level programs.

When did you start learning dance?

I started learning when I was in 1st std. I started learning as a hobby and for the initial four years I learnt various styles like – Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Manipuri, Odisi and Folk dance forms. From 5th Std, I started learning from Guru Pandita Shama Bhate. I went on to take dance as my primary subject at college level and did a BA in dance from Lalit Kala Kedra, Pune University.

Now I am doing my MA under Shama Tai’s guidance from Bharati Vidya Peeth

How did you decide to take it up as a career?

What started as a hobby soon turned into a passion. While I was in high school, my Guru Shama Bhateji and Sureshji Talwalkar suggested it to me and even discussed the same with my parents. They clarified my parent’s doubts and were very understanding. With so much confidence being bestowed by my guru, my parents agreed to the suggestion and supported me in my journey.

how different is the learning process from normal colleges?

All dance universities have gurukul system in India. There are two parts to the learning process – theory and practical learning. While the theory portion is covered in college via lectures, the practical training is to be done with a Guru. Usually, universities have a prescribed list of guru’s and you need to choose your guru from that.

All performing arts education admission is based on entrance exams. You have courses from graduation to masters to PhD level in the university system.

Apart from this there are separate examinations conducted by Gandharva Mahavidyalay which is equivalent to University level BA or MA degrees.

What is the life of a professional dancer? How is it like?

Daily riyaaz and being aware about what is new in your field is extremely important. There will be a minimum 2-3 hours of practice every day. You need to be attuned to the latest happenings and explore various genres like fusion or Bollywood music.

Dance is a physically intensive field. Apart from practice, there will be a lot of travel involved as programs happen all year round and all over India. You will have to build your network and take up performances depending on your capacity. Nowadays there are troupes focusing on classical dance. They call dancers from all over the world and perform together based on a concept.

What are the requirements to take dance as a profession?

Consult your Guru to understand your performance level. Your guru is the best person to guide you. This is an intensive field and you need family support. You need to work on your physical and mental stamina as once you take it as a serious career option, it easily involves 8-10 hours of training.

Another thing that I would like to tell the parents and the students interested in pursuing this career is that there is no immediate glamour. The ever increasing reality shows, show only a part of the actual efforts put in by a dancer and there should be enough thought put in before taking it up professionally.

WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT SYSTEM DO YOU NEED TO MAKE A FULFILLING CAREER IN DANCE?

Classical dance forms or any dance forms  are physically and mentally challenging. For starters, you need 8-10 years of economic support.

When you start giving solo performances you will need good stage, good music, costumes, etc. Learning some video and sound editing skills will be an added advantage. If you are performing with live music, you need good musicians and good support dancers.

Any tips for those planning to take it up as a career?

Don’t fall for the glamour. You will be required to learn for atleast 10-12 years. Your training will be rigorous and one-to-one. Choose an able guru, who will not only teach you the techniques but will also help you explore your creativity and present challenging topics and styles. Keep realistic views about the career and focus on building your network.

What are the career options in this field?

After learning Kathak at BA or MA level, apart from being a professional dancer, you can be a faculty at performing arts universities or you can start your own dance academy. There are also career options in the field of dance related costume designing, make-up and stage management. Apart from my dance institute, I teach two Indian girls in Germany via Skype. So that’s a new way to explore.

You can contact Leena Ketkar on – 9881137578

If you are following your passion or want to bust some myths about traditional careers, then do fill in the GoogleForms and I will feature you on my blog.

39 thoughts on “Dance as a career and how to go about it? Interview with Leena Ketkar

  1. Ruchi Verma says:

    My passion is dancing ..my dad always encouraged me for dancing and I have given few stage shows too…but one show is my big dream wish to fulfil that some day

  2. Zainab says:

    The career does look full of glamour but it’s not a piece of cake. I can see it takes a lot of blood sweat and tears to be perfect at it!

  3. Dipika Singh says:

    What a wonderful feature – thank you for introducing such a personality to us.
    I leaned kathak for an year during school days, but somehow could not continue. Loved the statement by Ms. Katkar – Don’t fall for glamour! Seems to fit today when aspiring dancers, kids want immediate success.
    Hard work is the only KEY. Lovely post.
    Dipika Singh recently posted…Style & Fashion – Party Wear SareesMy Profile

  4. Alpana Deo says:

    She is so right when she said mental and physical stamina is very important in this field. Dedication, hard work and discipline are the key elements. My daughter is learning Bharatntyam and I hear the same words from her Guru as well.

  5. Minakshi Bajpai says:

    It feels great seeing someone chasing and living a dream they’ve wished for. I feel proud seeing her taking dance as her professional career. The world has come so far because of people like her who dare to dream. It was a lovely read!

  6. Vikram Soni says:

    The Blog is totally about passion, dedication and hard work. Your passion for dance is clearly displayed in the blog. That YouTube video is so graceful. I hope you had great time interviewing.

  7. Anchal says:

    I could never learn how to dance. I was more into sports. But I will make sure my kids do. Thanks for sharing these insights.

  8. Papri Ganguly says:

    She is a inspiration to those who want to take dancing as a career. Now days parents are accepting such offbeat career options easily. All the credit goes to people like Leena

  9. Manasi says:

    Well said by Leenatai. I know her as my dance teacher. She is equally passionate about dance as her passion and as her students passion of all age. She is gem of a person as teacher and a friend. All the very best 💐💐💐

  10. Kanchan says:

    Hats off to Leena Tai for her dedication and hard work. My daughter is learning kathak under her guidance. As Tai is strict as well as very much friendly she is enjoying a lot. Proud to have such a nice guru for my daughter.

  11. Ananta says:

    This interview has thrown so much light on the years of hardwork and passion it takes to sustain in the field. As parents we now qant to encourage our kids to follows their dreams

  12. Rashmi says:

    Wonderful post.. thanks for introducing her.. awesome tips shared, n so true that one does need good stamina and perseverance to pursue dancing..

  13. Kavita Singh says:

    A true inspiration she is. Times are changing and I think parents are more accepting of various career choices. Loved reading it 🙂

  14. Rohini James says:

    Dancing has always been a passion but looked down in my school and college days. There are parents who still consider it a past time or hobby. I just got my daughter who loves dancing enrolled in Bharatanatyam.

  15. grace says:

    Wow! hats off to all the artists! So much hardwork and dedication is what gives them this result . Such an inspring read.

    Would love for my kid to be interested in dancing

  16. Surbhi says:

    I am sure during those days when resources were scanty and finding a right guru wasn’t easy, your parents paid so much attention towards you and your love for this dance form. Glad to know about you Leena.

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