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.