By Mudassir Raja
If one learns and pursues practising any oriental classical dance form, he or she will never get astray in life. His or her mind will never get attracted to negative emotions. The individual will always be a well-mannered person.
The positive and didactic side of a traditional classical dance is vehemently underscored by Rahul Gupta, who teaches and imparts training in Bharatanatyam, Kathak and other forms of classical dances in Doha. He was recently talking to Community.
The 31-year-old Rahul is an eminent classical dancer with expertise in Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, and folk dances like Bihu. Later in his career, he took up teaching and choreography, and has spent time spreading the culture of classical dance in different countries of the world.
Hailing from Chandigarh, India, Rahul got initiated in classical dance early in the day. “I started taking interest in classical dance when I was in nursery school. My mother has always encouraged me to keep dancing and she would always take me to dance classes. She never cared for the negative comments like Rahul is a boy and why is he learning classical dance. She has always appreciated the talent I have.
“I have two elder sisters. They do not follow dance but I have made classical dance my career. In my whole family nobody is into classic dance; they are all business people. I however, feel very happy and contented to be a professional dancer. I have always been appreciated and applauded in my school for being a good classical dancer since a very young age. I also used to teach how to dance to other students in my school even much older to myself. I got my first real recognition when my school took home a dance trophy and the dancers were trained by me. Later, I got admission in Pracheen Kala Kendra, a big dance school in my city. I have specialised in Bharatanatyam. I was constantly discouraged from pursuing a career in classical dance for being a boy. At some point, I also thought to discontinue the learning. However, I am happy today that I am a professional classical dancer.”
Rahul, who has recently moved back to Doha, earlier lived and worked here for two years from 2014-2016. He has been taking training sessions and performing in different parts of the world. “My wife Seema Gupta also has an interest in classical dance and she learnt it after marriage. She is a good dancer now as I give her my full support. My 10-year-old son Bharat is also very good at different forms of classical dance.
“Earlier, I did a lot of work in Doha and have very good friends here. I went to another Gulf country where I continued to teach different dance forms. My friends here have always been inviting me to come back. I have returned with my family to Qatar at last (smiles).”
He has performed along with his troupe in different countries, including Bahrain, Australia, Armenia and other parts of Eastern Europe. “My troupe is based in Chandigarh. They miss me and I miss them. However, my senior teachers are there and they continue their practice. They have regularly been performing in different cities of India.”
Bharatanatyam, for Rahul, is the best dance and form of exercise in the world. He finds it distinct and different from other forms of classical dance in other countries. “In Bharatanatyam, the movements are very clear. There are different facial expressions in this form. It is more tuned to acting. The dancer has to act to show different emotions and feelings. We are taught that there are nine emotions that human beings carry. In this dance, I have to play a hero and villain in one performance. A dancer has to perform different roles. It is a single dance with different characters.”
Rahul believes classical dance keeps an individual on track through thick and thin in life. “I have observed and experienced this in my life. If one learns and practices classical dance, he or she will never stray in life. He or she will remain a polite and gentle person completely following the good practices and principles of life. One classical dancer will be distinct among 10 western dancers because of his or her different aura. I have seen that in my teachers and friends.”
For Rahul, classical dance works as a stress-buster. “When I am tense or unhappy, I start practising dance. It makes me stress-free and fresh. It seems tension has become a part of everyone’s life. Art, in general, and classical dance, in particular, make you relaxed and fresh. It gives me real mental peace. I feel very relaxed. Till today, I have no idea what a headache is. It keeps my physically fit. Dance for me is a Tapasya (devotion).”
“Further, dancing is very dear to me. It has given me both recognition and respect. When I teach young children, they slowly start abiding by me. Sometimes, parents come to me asking for my support to teach their kids everyday life lessons. They believe that their children listen to me. In fact, whatever I preach, I practice it first. I am very friendly and professional with the children.”
Teaching and training others gives a sense of both satisfaction and accomplishment to Rahul. “Everyone needs to earn money. I am no exception. However, I also earn satisfaction from teaching classical dance. When parents appreciate my role in learning of their children, I feel proud. The feedback has been very positive. For example, recently I was invited at Don Bosco School in Shimla where over 3,000 girls study. I spoke to the students for an hour about classical dance and its significance. Some of the most senior teachers of the school applauded my style of teaching and conveying the message.”
The enthusiastic classical dancer plans to continue teaching and training young students. “I have programmes in the pipeline to perform dance dramas in different countries. In Doha, I like teaching kids from different nationalities and cultures. I want to continue teaching dance. In Qatar, I feel more respected because people give due recognition to art and dance.”
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