(March 25, 2022) Dancing across continents is a many splendoured thing. The beautiful and emotive Vrinda Chadha’s life has been a whirlwind of such experiences. It also shows the depth of her craft. A tryst with mudras which began at 13, has today created a body of work that is noteworthy. It started when the light footed Odissi danseuse would accompany her guru Ranjana Gauhar, a Padma Shri recipient to shows across India and internationally. Now 26, the Delhi-based dancer is also a faculty member at Gauhar’s Utsav dance academy. An accomplished dancer, another feather in her hat is that she is empanelled with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Doordarshan. Her evocative performances bring Odissi alive.
Ask her about her performances, and the danseuse rattles off, “In Spain, Argentina, Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, United Kingdom, Madagascar, and Seychelles.” All this, as part of her guru’s troupe and also for solo renditions. With such a vast repertoire, awards have been aplenty too. The Nalanda Nritya Nipuna Award in Mumbai, Young Talent Award by the International Academy of Mohiniyattam in Delhi, the title of Odissi Ratna in Bhubaneswar, and the Kameshwari Award in Guwahati, Vrinda is a member of the International Dance Council UNESCO, Paris and also a Teach for India fellow.
A step in the right direction
“I was always fond of dance and could express more through the artform than with words,” Vrinda shares in an interview with Global Indian. This knack for dancing was identified by her parents who took the Modern School, Vasant Vihar, kindergartener to Gauhar, who stayed in the same locality. A reputed artiste even back then, Gauhar’s mentorship turned out to be just the impetus the young Chadha needed to flourish.
“Guruji recognised my ability, honed my natural inclination towards dance, and gave me direction. For any person pursuing an artform, getting the right guru is the winning mantra. I am fortunate to have trained under her,” says the Lady Shri Ram College alumna.
A Punjabi girl in love with Odissi
When she first began dancing, Vrinda had minimal knowledge about the artform or the different dance forms in existence. It was as if she was destined for Odissi to take over her entire being. “I did not even realise how it got interspersed with my personality,” quips the nimble footed dancer who is also trained in Hindustani classical music and yoga.
“I was on a dance tour organised by Sangeet Natak Academy, representing Odissi in a multi-style troupe at Seychelles. There, we had a performance in which AR Rahman was the chief guest. It was an absolute joy to dance before him on stage as the show was in his honour. It was lovely to be so close in-person with such a music composer and artiste,” says the dancer who feels that Odissi is very intense and divine. “it gave me a special feeling that drew me towards it. Now, it is very difficult to differentiate me and my dance,” she admits. Over the years, Vrinda has built a special rapport with her guru Ranjana Gauhar, also a Punjabi woman who dedicated her life to Odissi.
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“Performing artistes and people watching them are privileged to have access to art forms. But art seldom reaches the people who need it. With this in mind, I took up the Teach for India fellowship to introduce dance and music to the underprivileged. The idea is not to make them experts, rather to enhance their ways of self-expression and emotional literacy through these media,” adds Vrinda, who has been teaching dance across Delhi’s government schools.
A life aligned to dance
Her father, Bhavnesh, a businessman, and mother, Poonam, a homemaker egged the young girl’s aspirations along, all for her career in dance. “They aligned my education to dance so that I could be happy with my choice. I took up philosophy as my major as it is parallel to dance,” says Vrinda, who has an elder brother.
“The life of an artiste may look very rosy, but it can also be full of challenges in the initial phases when establishing oneself is a slow process. Recognition takes time. During this phase, family support goes a long way. To be able to do what you love is a huge blessing,” Vrinda effuses. Even today, there is more to explore, and to stretch her artistic brilliance every time she takes to the stage.
An avid traveller, not just when dancing in different countries – she loves travelling solo. India’s heartland endear itself to her, be it Himachal Pradesh for hiking and trekking or just the hills.
“When one looks at dance, people think it’s only about performance but there are other aspects to it too,” says Vrinda, who keeps her love for the artform alive by researching and studying about Odissi. Practice is an everyday ritual for her. As she chalks out her future plans, she intends to take forward her guru Ranjana Gauhar’s legacy and work towards furthering the cause of Odissi dance.