Singapore-based dancer, Periyachi Roshini asks Bengaluru-based dancer, Shreema Upadhyaya, a few pertinent questions that concern the world of young dancers across the globe

Do you feel like as a dancer, you live two separate lives? As a dancer most of the time, we are expected to uphold a certain image that may not necessarily be our quirky and unique self. Do you feel that especially since you have a following you feel the need to succumb into the expectation of being the ‘dancer’ Shreema rather than Shreema as a person. Or do you feel both the Shreemas co-exist as dancer and person. I bring this up also because I know of many dancers who have a public account where the account is solely for dance content and then a personal account where they can post about their daily lives, fun stuff, etc… Your thoughts

I think with any profession these boundaries exist, and they exist with good reason. When working in such a setting, I think our personalities definitely have to take a backseat. And a lot of dancers prefer to separate their career from the rest of their life. 

Social media has definitely blurred a lot of lines in that sense. It is neither strictly professional nor personal. I myself have a single account where I showcase both my work and share glimpses of my life, essentially whatever I am comfortable with putting ‘out there’. I do receive flak for certain choices, but then again who doesn’t? 

I believe I shouldn’t let the fear of that stop me from being myself, or rather make me pretend to be something I’m not. It could help someone else be more comfortable being their true selves as well. Dancers can have fun too!

Are you currently a full-time artiste? If so, how sustainable is taking up the arts as a career? Sustainable in the sense physically, what do you do to make dancing a durable art form? Financially, what are some things that help you sustain as a full- time artiste?

I am a full-time artiste. Financially, I do agree that the classical arts are not quite yet there in terms of adequate compensation. But from what I have experienced, in today’s world, the possibilities are quite endless, if one puts their mind to it. It does require a great deal of planning, creativity and exploring different kinds of projects at times. In the end, knowing what one wants and which path to take, a sense of direction helps make life in the arts sustainable as a career. 

Discipline, hard work and most of all patience really pays off in this field. Nothing happens overnight, so pacing ourselves physically and mentally can keep us healthy, and dancing in the long run! 

How do you think the arts industry can better support upcoming artistes in creating work in terms of grants system/opportunities/mentorship programs, etc?

A lot of young artists today don’t really have the access or means to financial support systems such as grants, simply due to a lack of social privilege. Making these processes more transparent and equitable would definitely be the first step. There has certainly been a lot of change that has been brought by the current generation of artistes and mentors, as long as we continue moving in the right direction!

What inspires your creativity? As a dancer, you seem to have carved out a style that is unique to you, was there a process to it? Do you look outside of your learnt art forms for inspiration?

I remember asking this question to my guru, Praveen Kumar, once, and I’ll always remember his answer. Inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere. And so observation is key. From nature, literature, the people we meet, experiences, sometimes the most mundane of human activities. And art is simply bringing out these observations, beautifying them. 

I love experiencing other art forms too, whether it is music, dance, paintings and not necessarily those native to our culture. There is so much give and take that can occur once one begins to understand the approach to one’s own art form first. 

Finally, where do you see yourself in the future and what do you want to bring to the table in this industry?

I see myself dancing for however long I can. Art has a way of humbling us the more we explore it and attempt to master it. While I’m not certain of what I bring to the table, I truly hope this process of learning and practicing continues taking me on a beautiful yet challenging journey. And as a tiny speck, I can take this art forward in some way.

Stay on the beat

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Devata: Guardians of Dance

BLK D Goodman Arts Centre

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