What began as a hobby to keep fit gradually transformed into a passion for dancer Shallu Jindal, who plunged into the depths of Kuchipudi to surface with plans for a full-fledged dance academy.
Shallu, who was drawn to dance from her childhood and underwent training in Kathak began to learn Kuchipudi under Raja and Radha Reddy post her marriage to steel magnate and politician Naveen Jindal.
"I have finalised plans to set up performing centres for dance in Delhi and Odisha. The centre will offer training to youngsters and even older people in various forms of dance and music," Shallu Jindal said in an interview.
The dance academy is planned to come up by 2014.
Shallu, had very recently given a solo Kuchipudi recital here during which she danced to a bhajan sung by Meera Bai as also to other sufi and hindustani numbers.
"It was a completely classical repertoire but the bhajan was in hindi. It was my idea but my guru Raja Reddy did the complete choreography," says the classical dancer.
According to Shallu, dance is her life force, something which gives her the energy to face whatever each day brings with it.
"It has been 12 years since I began Kuchipudi. Of course it is a lot of hardwork and discipline but God has been very kind to me. It is a tapasya. I want to give back to society. Setting up the Jindal Centre for Performing Arts has been my dream for many years," says the dancer.
The academy in Delhi, she says will include Kuchipudi as well as other dance forms both classical and modern.
"We want to concentrate on kathak, Odissi and genres like Bollywood dance, Latin American, Russian ballet and jazz. Music will include Hindustani vocal and instruments like the tabla etc," says the dancer.
The centre in Angul, Odisha would be bigger and emphasise primarily on Odissi and Kuchipudi.
"While in a city like Delhi space is a big constraint, in Odisha it will be something led on the lines of the Kalakshetra in Chennai or even Mallika Sarabhai's dance school. I don't want to lose our classical repertoire," says Shallu Jindal.
Moreover, the danseuse opines that the need of the hour is a greater promotion of the classical arts.
"The classical arts needs to be promoted more and more academies should be set up across the country. The state governments can take a leading role and introduce more festivals that will provide opportunities for young people to perform," she says.
Shalu Jindal also plans to give scholarships to the underprivileged to learn dance.
"I want to encourage underprivileged children who are talented to take up dance professionally. It will be sort sort of skill based programme where students will get training in dance and later on they can earn a living by teaching etc. For this I plan to get in touch with a lot of schools." The onus of introducing, sustaining and furthering the
interest of children in dance rests on parents and teachers, points out the dancer.
"Children do get interested when they see classical dance performances but it is very difficult to retain their interest. This is where the role of the parents begins, they
should provide them with more exposure to dance performances," says Shallu whose daughter is also learning dance.
"My daughter is also learning from my gurus. She is also very passionate about kuchipudi, I think that daughters naturally emulate mothers. So much so she brought
her friends to my recital and thus inspired quite a few of them to start learning dance," says Shallu.
Forever, interested in different genres of dance, Shallu is constantly innovating for her recitals. She has performed both nationally and internationally including at Ellora,
Khajuraho, Hampi, Elephanta, Monte, Kinkini, Chidambaram, Chakradhar Samaroh, Krishna Gana Sabha, Natyanjali, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Chowmahalla festivals.
A self confessed fan of sufi music Shallu has based several of her classical dance recitals on sufi songs.
"For a very long time a quawali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has been running in my mind. It has been a favourite with me. One day I expressed my desire to dance to the number and my guru choreographed it for me. I have also danced to the Abida Parveen's songs," says the dancer.
"According to Natyashastra, Kuchipidi is very vocal and expressive form of dance and people can understand the language of dance irrespective of the language of the
composition." The colourful flamenco dancers from Spain also fascinate Shallu Jindal.
"I really want to learn belly dancing and flamenco. I have been fascinated with these two dance forms and I think am going to learn them soon because I always believe that the universe conspires to give back to you what you tell it," says the dancer.