The reason dancers take years to hone their skills is because initially, most of them end up concentrating either on their nritta (footwork) or the abhinaya (expressions). During the initial years of their dancing careers, either of the two takes a back seat.
These generalisations, however, don't apply to Neha Khaitan's art form. A disciple of guru Hemamalini Arni - who is further a disciple of legendary guru Padma Vibhushan Tanjore Balasaraswati and Padma Shri Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai - in six years of her career, Neha has achieved a perfect blend of both.
Neha Khaitan, 33, a Hyderabad-based Bharatnatyam dancer, who was in Chandigarh to perform at Pracheen Kala Bhawan, Sector 35, on Wednesday, says, "The audience in Chandigarh is warm and passionate about the dance form. This was my first performance in Chandigarh and I loved the way the audience sat on the floor to observe watch me dance."
(Neha Khaitan, Hyderabad-based Bharatnatyam dancer. Gurpreet Singh/HT)
A computer engineer by profession, Neha adds, "It's been eight years now that I have been learning the dance form. I used to work with an IT company initially, but that took up a lot of mind space, leaving no time for Bharatnatyam. So, I decided to keep that part-time and take up my passion for dancing full-time."
Neha has had the honour of performing at platforms such as Kalasagaram (Hyderabad), Chidambaram Natarajar Temple, Karthik Fine Arts (Chennai), Brahan Natyanjali (Tanjore) and Saraswati Gana Sabha (Kakinada). She has also taken part in ballets orchestrated by her guru Hemamalini Arni, about whom she says, "My guru is 80 years old now; she danced for 20 years and has been teaching for the past 40 years of her life. She is a legendary dancer; it is not possible for me to have the exact same style as hers. I just perform keeping my style and her teachings intact."
Talking about the younger generation's inclination towards western dances, she says, "The present generation is influenced by Bollywood and Hollywood, and not their cultural classical music or dance forms, because one needs to develop a taste for our kinds of art very early on in life."
On women dancers not being able to establish themselves because of family pressures, she says, "There are many women dancers in India who have not been lucky enough to have partners to support them. If I am contributing to the field of art, it is because of my husband's encouragement and appreciation for my talent in this field."