Belly Dancer Ritambhara Sahni speaks to Monarose Sheila Pereira about her unusual choice of vocation, asserting that the stigma surrounding this performing art is now a thing of the past...
What are your educational qualifications?
I have done B.Com. I passed my C.A Foundation Course and did one year of Law. I have also studied various forms of dancing.
What does dance mean to you?
I had started to perform and teach right from my school days. I want everyone to experience the joy I receive from dance. I started to teach on a professional level during my college days and went on to establish my institute - Ritambhara Sahni's Institute For The Performing Arts. [RSIPA] which taught many free-style dance forms such as Hip Hop, Funk, Jazz, Contemporary, Tap, Flamenco etc. I acted in T.V serials, did voice-overs and dubbing, even compered and performed as a mimicry artist, choreographed many events and taught dance and dance fitness for several years. However, my heart just wanted to dance and teach dancing. Teaching my students and watching them grow as dancers made me really happy and I decided that this is what I would want to do forever and I was not wrong. I also shared my love through dance in charity events for YWCA and the Rotaract Club of Mumbai. I worked ceaselessly and also judged dance performances for college events. I had achieved a lot by the time I had touched my 20s and dance had become the air I breathed and a way of life for me. I also won the 'All-Rounder Award' in my college: H.R. College of Commerce and Economics and brought a lot of glory to my college in the field of performing arts and sports.
How did you get into belly dancing?
Belly dancing was a childhood dream for me to learn, when I first saw it in a James Bond movie. I attempted to imitate the belly dancer in the movie and tried to imitate her moves in front of the mirror, but never really succeeded. My roots in old school Hip Hop helped me crack some of the moves but not all. I had achieved a lot in almost all other free-style dance forms, but this surely was a mystery because of academics, I could not travel abroad for a long long time. With no youtube and internet back then, I still managed 75 percent of it. My family arranged for a specialised belly dancer from abroad to come and teach me here in Mumbai.
What are the difficulties in your field?
When I started belly dancing in Mumbai, a percentage of people did consider belly dancing to be taboo. But now the viewpoint has totally changed and I really don’t face any difficulties. However, many young girls and women have a misconception that belly dance can only be done by a young girl having a perfect body which is not true. Belly danceing can be done by girls and women of all age, shape and sizes. You do not need a toned belly to belly dance, its coz' of belly dancing that your belly gets toned. Belly dance makes a girl feel like a woman and a woman feel like a girl. Though I did pass a CA course and graduated as a law student, I continued to hold private dance classes and choreograph dance sequences for colleges and corporate events.
What are your future plans?
I love teaching and in the future would love to see my students create their own careers in terms of a belly dance performing artists, belly dance teachers, and belly dance choreographers or also see my students start their own belly dance schools. A few of my students have already started to work with me as assistant instructors; some of them even choreograph for several semi - professional events. We have even created a platform for them to perform with our show 'Hip-nosis Mumbai'.