1999 marked the year when our founding member Ms. Hetal Nagaraj first stepped into professional competition choreography as freelancer. It was the very first time when she taught students similar to her age, or they did not belong to her affiliated groups/school or college or let’s just say, were complete strangers. For a 20 year old, it was tough call when she was not a performer but a choreographer (Sigh). Through a friend’s friend, this all got started and today we are thankful to both of them.
Biggest challenge was that these students were avid dancers (who could move the way you want them to) but they had no idea of what they were doing. This is in-spite of being natives or participating in various community or school events as they claimed to. But, ready to work hard & first whole week just passed by getting their moves FIXED to folk requirements, which we did daily for 4 hours totaling to up-to 28 hours of training!
After spending all that sponsored funds for the costumes and travel, you cannot afford to do mistakes. The whole week, with pure folk training & listening to audio/video of 30+ folk artist, finally we ended up in a song that was approved by competition board to use and was best fitting our decided folk & theme!
Then the real drill work of choreography had begun!
Folk Dance Competitions in India were/are technique focused (The ones we participated in) considering the important and major elements of folk dances to promote the authenticity and importance of Folk Dances. Other folk dances participated as well due to diverse cultural demographics in Gujarat. Judges either had dual degrees in performing arts, followed by PHDs or double masters in their areas. Ms. Joshi (we were) was worried as it was her very first freelance private group choreography with just some amateur free-move dancers who took training for short period of time! Getting them to NOT do mistake was biggest challenge.
If that was not enough, innovation & creativity was an essential element and to further make it look dramatic, we added the props that required balance.
Pressures…pressures & crazy pressures of around 16 dancers (14+2 setting) and it was all worth taking the pain! Cash prize of 1 Lakh Rupees & gift certificates to various malls & resorts. We did bag 20K INR (from award money as our % other than choreography fees), free tickets to cultural concerts, and gift cards to restaurants and hotels. It was a big amount back then in 1999 for a 20 year old to earn that money for just 3.5 months of work!
The satisfaction, Ms. Joshi (we) got was PRICELESS. Ms. Joshi also received additional perks from group as a thank you note for arranging costumes, jewelry & Props in last moment when board did not approve costumes and jewelry (due to folk costume guidelines) that group had initially decided. This was a kick-starter for us…Our best of all until now!
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