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From Folk to Bollywood: Garba

By Krishna Zivraj-Nair Artistic Director, Sanskruti School of Dance

This mini series ‘From Folk to Bollywood’ takes a look at some popular Indian folk dances; their historical and cultural context and their popularity in mainstream Bollywood cinema.

Part 1: Garba – the folk dance from Gujarat in West India

Narration, Script and Choreography: Krishna Zivraj-Nair
Performers: Dancers from Sanskruti Cambridge
Music: ‘Udi Udi Jaye’ from the Bollywood film Raeez

“I search for dance that connects me to my soul”

I am a trained Indian classical Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher & choreographer. I head the Sanskruti School of Dance, Cambridge and am artistic director of Sanskruti Dance, a professional dance company I created in 2017 as a vehicle for my choreographic interests.  I was awarded the Nritya Ratna award in India for my contribution to Indian arts in 2016. Recently, I won the ISTD Bursary Award 2018-2019 in recognition of my teaching potential. While teaching, I began choreographing dance routines for my students using Bharatanatyam vocaublary. My early choreographic experience includes work for the Cambridge Big Weekend Festivals, Cambridge Carbon Footprint, Bharatanatyam Flashmob performances for Mill Road Midsummer Festival and U. Dance regionals. My talent was spotted by Akademi and the Cambridge Junction, and this led to a successful ACE grant for R&D of my first professional work, Apple’n’Spice in 2017. The work premiered at London RichMix and Cambridge Junction, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive. A second successful ACE grant allowed me and my creative team to substantially develop Apple’n’Spice and to tour the piece to numerous venues, allowing a larger audience to engage with my work. The work toured to theatres in London and East England, and to a range of urban and rural libraries in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. I was also one of the 8 mentees on the One Dance Teaching Mentoring programme in 2017, a much sought after award given to those that have been identified as future industry leaders.

The dance school was founded in 2007 and over the years I have trained over 100 students in Bharatanatyam and Bollywood, given several performances locally and internationally, and engaged with an audience over 1000s of people. My students have performed at national level competitions, such as U.Dance Festivals, Navadal, ISTD Bursary Awards, IndianRaga, among others. They have made it to U.Dance semi-finals 2019 and my student, Linnea, is also the winner of the coveted national ISTD Bursary Awards 2018-2019. In addition to Bharatanatyam, the dance school offers training in Bollywood dance, Odissi and Carnatic music to children and adults of all age groups. Despite the current lockdown, the dance school is still offering classes online via Zoom and our students continue to perform at NavSanskruti- a virtual platform to seek new horizons beyond Covid-19 lockdown.

I am formally trained as a research scientist with a PhD in Neuroscience. I was working as a postdoctoral research scientist at University of Cambridge until 2010 until the birth of my first child. I live with my husband Amit Nair, two children- Sia and Arjun, and a 10 months old cocker spaniel called Dobby. I am also a breast cancer survivor and am ever grateful to the Oncology Department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for treating my stage 2 breast cancer from 2018-2019. In many ways the ability to think critically, experiment and analyse are skills that I long to explore while creating new work. My plans for the future are to develop methods to grow as a dance artist, create new thought-provoking work that reachers a wide audience, give performances as well as teaching dance. Plus, with the additional experience of undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and two surgeries in a span of 14 months, my new mantra is ‘#Life is good’!”

The Sanskruti School of Dance takes it’s name from the Sanskrit word Sanskruti, which means culture.

Sanskruti regular classes in Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Bollywood dance, Carnatic Vocals and the Veena, and raises awareness of South Asian art forms using workshops and performances in varied venues and for different occasions; schools, museums, hospitals, libraries, cultural festivals and private events.

Cambridge South Asian History Month was launched by Cambridge City Council on 15 June 2020. Join the conversation on our facebook page @CamSouthAsianHistory




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