Shatakshi Goyal - Dance Is a Language, You Can Learn to Speak It Just by Watching (Like We Learn Our Mother Tongue by Hearing) (Dancer from India)

My first performance ever was in a professional theatre with lights, cameras, at a sold-out show at age 3, as part of a drama.

1. Tell us more about your background and journey.

I began my journey towards training as a dancer at the age of five. I learned Kathak from Guru Piyali Sarkar for three years then Bharatnatyam from Guru Sudha Vasudevan for about seven years while also completing my college education in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Boise State University, USA being selected as one of the top 5 ECE in the USA 2010. 

After graduation, I worked at Hewlett-Packard as a Systems and Product Quality Improvement Lead for Laserjet Printers managing 2 teams of about 24 people. After resigning from HP, I moved to Vrindavan, India in 2012 and started learning Odissi Dance from Guru Pratap Narayan. 

In 2016, I moved to Bhubaneshwar and learned Odissi from Guru Aruna Mohanty at Orissa Dance Academy. To boost my passion for Odissi dance, in Jun 2016, I moved to Nrtyagram Dance Academy, Bangalore, where I enhanced the art further under Guru Surupa Sen, Bijayini Satpathy and Pavitra Reddy. Currently, I am running my own Natyashala Academy in Goregaon, Mumbai, India

2. When did you first decide you wanted to pursue dancing and how did you start?

When I was 2/3 years old, Guru Vishnutattva and Lila came to Boise, Idaho, the USA to perform for the Festival of India. My parents made recordings of the program and we watched it on our VCR tapes more than 100 times growing up.

My first performance ever was in a professional theatre with lights, cameras, at a sold-out show at age 3, as part of a drama. We were asked to just do some impromptu movements. Then I started learning Kathak and Bharatanatyam, but was always looking for that dance choreography in which you do aarti of Jagannath (Mangalacharan item in the Odissi repertoire that I saw Guru Vishnutattva do at the Festival of India) and would ask my teacher often, "May, I learn that dance"? 

She would tell me that is a different dance form called Odissi. I learnt Kathak for 3 years and Bharatnatyam for 10 years, but the early memories of Vishnutattva Prabhu stayed with me until age 20 when I resigned from my $65K/year job and moved to India to learn Odissi. My parents were always a constant source of inspiration for me to learn dancing for Krsna as a cultural ambassador for India in the US.

3. Who is your favourite dancer and why?

This is definitely a hard question to answer. My mentors, definitely. Surupa Didi's choreographic thought, Bijayini Didi's study of movement and anatomy, Pavitra Didi's Abhinaya, Meenakshi Srinivasan's Abhinaya. I also really love Arushi Mudgal's abhinaya from Gita-Govindam.

4. Can you throw some light on opportunities one gets as a dancer?

You can teach, shoot, perform and travel the world, touch hearts through enlightening choreographies. You can model for all kinds of brands and companies through social media and stay fit and look stunning! But most of all, it's something that can satisfy your heart from all miseries because it praises the Lord's activities, form, and pastimes!

5. Is format training required or can one train themselves purely on the basis of talent?

I have seen some dancers just train from youtube videos and get pretty good, but ultimately even they opted for professional training. Dance is a language, you can learn to speak it just by watching (like we learn our mother tongue by hearing).

But ultimately we are taught Language classes in school so that we understand the intricacies of vocabularic usage and grammar. We take writing classes to learn how to express our thoughts through the choicest words. Dance is exactly the same. 

Dance training has evolved over the years to help us amplify, clarify, purify our self-expression and most of all expression of the extra-mundane and create that experience, that journey for viewers. A coach can help us make our enunciations of movement become clearer and in turn 'wipe off our dancing flaws from the lens we provide the audience to experience more clearly the divine place we are meant to co-journey to. 

6. What piece of advice would you like to give to future and aspiring artists?

Find a good teacher. Train hard. Learn the discipline of how to incorporate your practice in life. Make it a part of life, even beyond the gurukul.


7. Which is your favourite book and why?

My favourite book is the Bhagavad Gita, as many times we may find ourselves in dark places like Arjuna, and the Gita is that shining lamp that has all the power to "put us out of our misery" metaphorically.

Interviewed by - Jayasree

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