On with the dance
15-year-old kathak dancer Yukti Arya wins yet another award, FARZANA SHAKIR reports.
‘The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music. Bodies never lie. To dance is to be out of yourself, larger, more beautiful, more powerful.’
This beautifully sentiment, expressed by Agnes De Mille, was aptly endorsed by the young Indian dance sensation Yukti Arya in a recent interview with Indian Link.
Yukti is the winner of a gold medal in this year’s Sydney Eisteddfod Performing Arts Challenge held at the University of New South Wales in August this year.
She participated in the World Dance Solo category (13 and over) and impressed the judges with her precise movements, technicality and skills in the classical Indian dance form kathak, to claim gold.
“Kathak means the world to me; it’s my hobby, it is how I relax,” says the fifteen year old.
The unassuming Liverpool resident is a student of Year 10 at a local agricultural school and the younger of two sisters. This is the second time Yukti has participated in the prestigious Eisteddfod arts challenge. She took part in last year’s competition and won silver.
“To be honest I wasn’t expecting to win as I personally believed I could have done better. The reason was, I didn’t get to practise as much as I would have liked due to another dance engagement, Nautch Girls which took place just the day before the competition. So it was a huge surprise when my name was called out,” Yukti confided.
“In fact it is so surreal, I’m still processing it,” she giggled, “But really, it means so much to me to have people see and appreciate my talent. It was just great and I’m so grateful.”
A student of the Ruchi Sanghi Dance School for the past four year, Yukti is quick to credit her success to her teacher Ruchi Sanghi (who is a disciple of the acclaimed Shri Gopi Krisha), and to her mum Sadhana and friends Kadambari, Saanchi and Mansi.
“All of these women have a very strong passion for dance. They have helped me to harness my talent and develop my own style,” says she.
In addition Yukti commends, “My mum is the biggest influence in my life. She was a talented dancer and artist herself and I think I have inherited the dancing talent from her while my sister Shruti takes after her artistic side. Mum has put everything in it for me and supported me immensely while my sister has always been there for me and helped with the publicity.”
Apart from kathak, Yukti has also been learning contemporary, folk and Bollywood dancing. She plans to take dance as a subject in HSC. Her aim is to promote Indian classical dance in Australia. But even though she’s been receiving offers Yukti does not intend to make a career in Bollywood. Instead she hopes one day to make her mark as a successful gynaecologist.
“Dancing will of course always be a part of my life but to be realistic it is not easy to make it in Bollywood. You need to maintain your body shape, have acting talent and be able to cope with media attention. Though I’m not a very private person, I frankly don’t have a desire for such a life,” she asserted.
Yukti is a big fan of Bollywood dancing though and her favourite performers include Madhuri Dixit, Madhubala, Sri Devi and Helen.
This has been a busy year for Yukti with performances including the recent musical Nautch Girls, performances at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and the Vivid Water and Fire Festival at the Darling Harbour.
Asked how she kept a balance between a busy dance schedule and studies, Yukti replied playfully, “That’s a very good question. I dance quite a bit, in fact I will dance anywhere, in my kitchen, at the train station….there are always beats playing in my head, but I can buckle down when I need to study. Since winning the gold medal people have been asking me to perform a lot but I have turned down many offers even though I feel bad because they clash with my studies”
To other youngsters her age, Yukti’s encouraging advice is, “Try out dancing, it’s awesome! You don’t necessarily have to join a dance school. Everyone can dance. It is not only a way to keep fit, it is also a means of self expression, it increases your confidence and trust me it is easier than it looks!”