Hemvati Bhaumik is an Indian classical dance practitioner, performer, and teacher who specializes in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dance styles. Being involved in performing arts, she is also a certified Yoga instructor, make-up artist, percussionist, and folk dancer. She has demonstrated an interest in the arts such as dancing, music, and singing since she was a toddler. We discuss the connection between art and the spiritual world, the importance of a culturally diverse community, and Hemvati’s ambition to set up a performing arts school in the Bay.
Your occupation, job title, artistic discipline (or very brief description of what you do):
My artistic discipline demonstrates various types of performing arts such as dance-drama and yoga. Here is the best answer to describe my occupation and what I do.
Basically, being an Indian classical dance performer requires a strong core and fantastic breathing, which can be achieved with the regular practice of yoga. The most basic requirements of a dancer, such as an increase in stamina, achieving flexibility and enhancing balance, can be achieved with yoga.
Dance in India has an unbroken tradition for over 2,000 years. Its themes are derived from mythology, legends and classical literature, two main divisions being classical and folk. Classical dance forms are based on ancient dance disciplines and have rigid rules of presentation.
Indian classical dances are traditionally performed as an expressive drama-dance form of religious performance art, related to Vaishnavism, Shaivism Epic and the folksy entertainment that includes story-telling from Tamil or other Dravidian language plays.
What cities/towns have you lived in (or spent more than a few months in) beginning with the place of your birth?
I was born and brought up in Ahmedabad, Western India in a state named Gujarat. During my foreign experience, I travelled and performed across the United States of America for several months.
What are the earliest stories you remember hearing? The ones that told you about the world?
The Ramayana, The Mahabharata, Cinderella, The Courage of Abhimanyu, The Strength of Durga, The Focus of Arjuna, The Odyssey, Harry Potter, Beloved, Vikram and Betaal, and a story of a rabbit and tortoise.
What’s your favorite Bay of Plenty landscape, park, building, location, suburb, or side street? Why?
I can consider Memorial Park in Tauranga because this was the place where I introduced myself to the community through my dance performance at the Holi festival, 2020.
What’s an average day in your life at present?
Along with my routine (work and cooking) I do my warmups, stretching and basic dance practice regularly.
How did your career in Classical Indian Dance begin?
My aunt and my parents were highly connected to Jain religion’s cultural and social events and from early childhood they encouraged me to participate in traditional festivals. I was lucky enough to give my first performance at the age of 3 with 2000 people as a witness in Kutch, Gujarat, India. Ever since, my family have had traditional values and a strong belief in Indian culture from early childhood. They helped me participate in different cultural events where they observed my keen interest in performing arts like dance, drama and singing. At the age of 7 I started officially learning Bharatanatyam dance – a mother of Classical Indian dance form and the journey as an artist began.
What is your favourite thing about dance?
Classical Indian art forms are very much connected to human lives and I believe dancing stimulates my relationship with myself; it also reminds me that my body is the instrument through which I can connect to my inner soul – a god. It keeps me alive to know more about the truth of my life. So, when I perform or do my practice, I only remember dance and not my financial or social status, who I am, how old I am, which colour or race I am, and of my gender or ethnicity or religion. I feel I am above from all the measurements and comparisons of life while dancing.
For you as a creative person, who are three influential artists or thinkers?
Padma Bhushan Mrinalini Sarabhai was an Indian classical dancer, choreographer and instructor. She was the founder and director of the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, an institute for imparting training in dance, drama, music and puppetry, in the city of Ahmedabad.
Padma Bhushan Mallika Sarabhai is a current Indian classical dancer and choreographer, actress, writer, and social activist known for her promotion of the arts as a vehicle for social change and transformation. She is the daughter of classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai and Indian space scientist Vikram Sarabhai.
Chandra Mohan Jain, also known as Acharya Rajneesh OSHO, was an Indian godman, mystic, and founder of the Rajneesh movement.
Looking back at your teen-age self: what one sentence describes that person?
As a modern feminist person I would gladly describe Dr. Mallika Sarabhai, who has had a significant impact on my life and personality since I was a child.
As a dancer, storyteller, writer and social activist, she has powered change through performing arts. Besides being one of the leading exponents in classical dance, she is also vocal on women’s empowerment, making her a fearless feminist of my times.
If you had to eat the same meal every day, what would it be?
Oats and milk.
What are you planning for 2021 that nobody knows about yet?
As a migrant, I see valuing other cultures within the community as a vital aspect, and having a strong cultural heritage alongside a willingness to collaborate with Māori art and work with other cultures where values and beliefs are at the core of identity formation and central to an individual’s communal culture. I want to demonstrate a strong commitment to my own culture while holding a strong belief that other cultures in the community also need to be respected. In addition, in a country where art is not promoted, or given a place as mainstream, it is natural and obvious that the journey of establishing oneself and especially a dance school involves huge personal, family, and professional risks. Especially setting up a school for the performing arts, which will be a huge responsibility and a challenge with wonderful experiences. However, I have the dream, aim and clear vision, and determination and love for what I do.
Who are your favourite or most admired figures from history?
A spiritual successor Lord Vardhman Mahavir Swami. A controversial new religious movement leader and mystic Osho. The queen of Jhansi Lakshmibai.
In one sentence, can you define art?
A materialistic path to the spiritual world (deep and devotional realization). In other words, art is a journey of outer world to inner world where one can connect him/her self to the supreme power of the universe and unite within.
Name a few films that you consider profound, moving or extraordinary?
Mari Kom, Dangal, Charlie’s Angels, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, and Avatar.
What was your first real job, second, third?
First, I worked as a dance instructor then as a dance teacher and yoga coach, and then as a professional performing artist and teacher.
What word of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?
Always try to be in your peace and mind your own job: this will make life easy and productive. If problems are there then solutions, too, are there. Importantly, life is too short to be unhappy so let go of what we cannot change and always remember nothing is permanent. My philosophy of life is love when you can, apologize when you should because life is really beautiful: just go with the flow by having deep faith in yourself.
What’s the biggest problem about life in New Zealand? How you would solve it?
I think it’s artists’ freedom and empowerment in the performing arts that are missing in New Zealand. I’d like to work with artists of many ethnicities to create a forum of active performing artists in which artists have their own voices and show togetherness in the community. It might help to solve the problem.
What is your dream of happiness?
I believe one should be able to sleep happily and wake up grateful for what they have. So, let us live joyfully and let others live in peace as well. This is how I bring happiness into my life.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself/your organisation?
I pursued two master’s degrees, one in performing arts (dance) and the other in mentoring and professional leadership, and now is the time to put my expertise and experience to good use, so I’d like to open my own performing arts school in Aotearoa, New Zealand, where not only one but many different cultural art forms may demonstrate their artistic abilities while also uniting them through broad collaboration. Thankfully, with the help of three people (my partner Mr. Bhaumik, One Love Charity Trust – Katikati run by Bela, and Dhruva Reid, and Nethya Vengadesan from Rotorua), I commenced teaching and taking workshops under the name of my dance school, NRITYANANDA – Dancing Through Devotion.
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