Pratibha Gupta is an extremely passionate dancer and founder of Dehradun’s oldest dance Academy, But the journey to becoming such an expert dancer despite being talented wasn’t easy. While on one hand, she got her dancing skills as a God gift, on the other side she was born in a conservative Jain family. Nevertheless, her zeal to become a great dancer and love for it, gave her the strength to leave no stone unturned. She established the Pratibha dance academy two decades back from the present. At that time not only Dehradun but the entire nation still was far off from recognizing dance as a respectable art.
Tell us about your early life, your birth place and schooling.
Though I consider myself more attached to Dehradun but for the record, I’m from Meerut. Even my early schooling and studies were completed in Meerut. Our transfer wasn’t for that reason but certainly, it was in destiny and so it happened.
How did you realize that dance was the thing for which you came in this world?
I liked dancing since childhood. Merely any sound or tune from anywhere, get my feet tapping. In our times there were those cassettes with reel. I used to somehow get it for myself. Then there was this long waiting until the family members are out, and as soon as they went I used to dance. I never took any training and learned it all myself led by instincts.
You just said that you had to hide from your family and dance, why is that so? Didn’t you get support and encouragement from your family?
No. My father did not approve of dancing. In fact being from the most conventional background, the entire community did not like it. At that time in UP dancing was a taboo and even worse for a female. My father never saw my performance, actually he is not at fault it’s the societal norms. I never revealed to him that I like dancing or I dance. Later on, when my work was covered by the media, he felt proud and was happy. That was a pleasant surprise for me.
When did you start training others for dance?
I completed my later studies from Dehradun. In contrast to you UP, Dehradun was a better place to accept new talents. There is a culture here, where women dance and their dance is accepted as art and acknowledged. Still, when I started my Academy it took time for people to join. Later on, we had no space but more people wanted to join in.
You started the dance academy after marriage, did your husband support?
Frankly speaking, the academy was not possible without him. He was the one who encouraged me for the first time for my passion. After getting a support system and acceptance I felt confident. My in laws have no problem with dancing and appreciate me. After 6 months of marriage, we both started the dance academy and it’s been a smooth run after that.
Did you ever feel that being a woman it was more difficult to go against the flow?
Undoubtedly. Dancing is taboo only for females, look at the way men dance all drunk during marriage processions. We used to be warned that there shouldn’t be a single foot tap. And the men around us danced and enjoyed. We had to struggle, for learning the real artistic dance, and still were restricted. The men did nonsense and yet no one had any objections.
It’s been 22 long years since you started. How does it feel to look back at your journey?
It feels great. My students are starting new dance academies, winning competitions all over the country. Our academy is the oldest Academy and it’s a sense of pride and achievement to have reached here. Most importantly it’s a great thing to have been able to change the way people thought about dance.
Which kinds of dance are taught in your academy?
All dance forms are equal. I teach my kids all of them. Whether it is contemporary or classical. It is not a zoo to train, it’s a temple to nurture!
What is the most important thing to become a great dancer?
Will power is most important for learning anything. Unless you have the will and eagerness to learn, nothing is possible. The second most important thing that is equally important is practice. The more you practice the more skilled dancer you become.
Thank you, ma’am, for giving us your time!
Adress of Pratibha Dance Academy
88-D, Park Road, Opp WonderLand School
Patel Nagar, Dehradun