Eleven years ago I was new to this country, the land of dreams. In India, I was a biologist who danced for fun and for the love of it. But here in this new place, I did not know what to expect. Naturally, I turned back to science and started work. I was content, but when I got a chance to choreograph for the Brihan Maharashtra Mandal convention in 1999, I never looked back. I could have never imagined that it would lead to the life I have now, the life of a true dancer.
My inherent love for Indian folk dancing and the training I had received from my teachers, Shri Ramesh Purav and Acharya Parvati Kumar, came back to me in a flash. For the convention, I choreographed several folk dances from Maharashtra with performers ages 4 to 40, and it was a huge success. Parents were thrilled to see their children enjoying the folk form performed to Marathi songs and several requested I teach their children. I started with six girls in my living room and slowly the word spread. Soon I moved the classes to a dance studio in Santa Clara, later becoming the Nupur Folk Dance Academy.
Parents were happy to see their children introduced to their culture and language and that of other regions. The dance school slowly became a family. I began organizing annual dance productions and presenting various themes that would take the audience back to the roots of India: the country’s festivals, village life, patriotism, and even a unique theme on the city of Mumbai. The Nupur Folk Dance Academy entered in competitions and won numerous awards.
All this is very close to my heart. My goal in opening up the dance academy was to pass on to my students everything that my teachers taught me, the basic essence of folk dancing: respect for the art form and pride in teamwork.
To date, my students have learned and performed numerous folk dances from 18 different states of India. Some of these are uncommon dances such as the Naga dance from Naga Land, the stilt dance from Orissa, cheraw dance from Mizoram, along with widely known dances such as dandiya, garba, and bhangra.
Time since then has flown by. Preparations are already in full swing for our 10th anniversary celebration, “Parikrama: the Mystic Journey,” a dance drama being presented through 20 different folk dances. The unique production be narrated through dance and a skit, and involves adult performers to children as young as 6. All event proceeds will benefit the South Asian Heart Center.
Looking back at these 10 years, I realize that though biology/biotechnology is my trained profession, folk dancing is my passion. I am amazed to see how people here have embraced Indian folk dance. Through the hundreds of students who have come and gone, I am proud that the tradition and culture that we embody at Nupur has affected each of them in some way. I can’t help but smile when a former student says that their college dance accomplishment is due to the training I gave them.
In the end, folk dancing is all about joining different people, cultures, and languages together to make a dance form that warms every body and heart. The unity in diversity of India that is portrayed thorough Indian folk dancing is a quality that no other dance form possesses. As Benjamin Watson said, “Although our backgrounds and languages may be different, there’s one language that’s universal, it’s dance, particularly folk dance.”