Brinda Guha: I hope to instill a love of Indian dance and music in the next generation

When we first came across Brinda we were mesmerized by her style and execution of dance. It’s clear that Brinda shares a very special relationship with the movement she creates, and her ability to tell a story is simply captivating. Let’s learn more about Brinda, her inspiration, and her style of dance.

When & where did you start dancing?

Age 4 with my mom in New Jersey. She has a dance school called Kalamandir that she started in 1986.

How would you characterize your style?

Contemporary Indian dance: based in the fundamentals and ideology of Classical & Folk Indian dance and taking it to current practices through contemporary aesthetic and urban sensibility. It is an Indian dance first.

Do you teach dance? If so, what type of classes?

Yes! I teach Contemporary Indian classes for beginners.

What inspired you to start teaching classes?

My mother is my Kathak guru. I have grown up in the dance school setting. I knew ultimately, minimizing the distance between me and my goals required the practice of teaching the next generation. If I'm able to teach it, then it would mean I truly understand it. Nevertheless, teaching dance has become my passion alongside my love for choreography and performance.

What are your goals as a dancer? As a choreographer? And as a teacher?

Thank you for posing the question as three separate things, because they are! As a dancer, I would like to make sure my agility, speed, expression, and modality are in tact with age. Kathak inspired movement, and Contemporary Indian expression, require an efficiency to it. It requires clarity in communication. I hope and aim for my body to keep up with me as I get older. As a choreographer, my goals are vast. I would like to present my work on stages large and small, far and near, and spread the love and storytelling of Contemporary Indian dance and music. I've been lucky to work with many beautiful movers in this style, and moving forward, I hope to annually work with an ensemble who having training in Indian dance and seek to study Contemporary Indian ideology with regularity. This way, the fundamental understanding of Indian dance and storytelling will effectively touch the hearts of many viewers while also remaining prevalent to the times we are living in. As a teacher, I hope to instill a love of Indian dance and music to the next generation. Indian art is one of the oldest on the planet, and there is a part of me that is hurt whenever the newer generation takes Indian arts for granted; they think it started with Bollywood! And it most certainly did not. Learning the techniques of Indian dance is important to me -- each technique of each classical and each folk style teaches our body about interpreting space effectively. It is rooted in thousands of years of culture that one quick masterclass won't be able to cover. Thus, as a teacher, if I can instill the love and curiosity of Indian arts to my students, then I feel as though I've planted a seed that will benefit them for years to come.

Indian art is one of the oldest on the planet, and there is a part of me that is hurt whenever the newer generation takes Indian arts for granted; they think it started with Bollywood! And it most certainly did not.

What gives you inspiration?

Good music. Music with purpose. Also activism in dance. We have the ability to use our bodies to tell stories: I'd rather see truths with those abilities.

What has been your biggest challenge you have come across in your career so far?

Truthfully? Staying relevant. When I started bringing my work to NYC, very few people were doing Contemporary Indian here. I coined it as such to make sure I was staying true to what it was I was teaching. Over the last decade, many of my students and peers have began to teach seemingly (to the western eye) similar styles, putting me out of work. It's a rough industry. I remember when I used to try and maneuver the industry for my friends who were doing great work. Nowadays, I am competing with my students! It's rough. On one end, I am a giver, and I'm so proud of people for their accomplishments. I've taught many people -- I love the idea that Contemporary Indian dance is spreading far and wide. On the other hand, I worry that it is getting watered down and hired because of great video production but not a lot of quality in movement. I remember doing one arm movement for 2 hours in a rehearsal once -- to instill the quality that was asked of me for that movement. It feels very hit it or quit it these days, like "let's see how many steps I can get in this 8 count". I am grateful that I have an eye for technology and have a wide network of creatives and digital artists who help me, so when I have the energy, I can document my work, share it, and stay somewhat relevant in this evolving field of Indian dance on the internet! Short story? I fear getting lost in the mix when I was the one who started the mix. Go figure! But such is the industry I've chosen, and many of my peers feel the same way. We are living in pivotal time, so I do my best to keep the work alive and also have pioneered a few other endeavors in the city to make sure my skills are being used for socially conscious needs in the artistic community of this city.

I worry that it is getting watered down and hired because of great video production but not a lot of quality in movement. I remember doing one arm movement for 2 hours in a rehearsal once — to instill the quality that was asked of me for that movement.

If you could go back in time, what advice and lessons learned would you had given your “younger self”?

Take ballet! I started (western) technique classes as an adult. Ballet in essence cross trains Indian dance well. When we are on the floor, ballet teaches you how to use the floor to lift away from the floor. Indian dance teaches you power in sound, percussion, groundwork, subtlety, shapes, and storytelling. Ballet teaches you length, flow, internal strength, and control. I regret not starting earlier. Better late than never, I presume.

If you could give advice for aspiring younger dancers, what did you discover about this industry that you would want others to know about?

Times are changing, so don't forget to TAKE CLASS. As important as it is to document and share your work, it's equally important to take class. We can't become teachers and choreographers overnight. There is a responsibility towards the training.

What does dance mean to you?

Storytelling

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Direct, empathetic, leader

When do you teach? What’s your upcoming schedule? Any upcoming projects?

Teach on Thursdays 7pm at Liberated Movement (380 Broadway, NYC). Will be teaching at Broadway Dance Center on 29 & 30 December. Check the schedule!

Social Media (Insta, Youtube, FB)

Instagram: @brindaguha
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/BrindaGuha
Website: www.brindaguha.com