UAE | Society

She can't dance but she can teach

Despite being physically challenged, 64-year-old exponent of Indian classical dance continues to attract eager students

  • by Shveta Pathak 
Staff Reporter
  • Published: 20:35 January 23, 2013
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit: ARSHAD ALI
  • Dance little ladies dance: Seated in her chair, physically challenged Ketaki Hazra takes her students through a routine of kathak xpress/ARSHAD ALI

DUBAI There must be something very special about this Indian classical dance teacher that there is no dearth of students knocking at her door despite not being able to dance herself. And although there are several Indian classical dance institutes in Dubai, the name of this physically challenged teacher continues to be mentioned by the city’s dance enthusiasts.

An exponent of both the Jaipur and Lucknow gharanas of kathak, 64-year-old Ketaki Hazra, a Karama resident, has been teaching Indian classical dance for the last 28 years and has helped hundreds live their passion and realise their dream of becoming dancers.

Observing her teach the intricacies of kathak to her students, you get so absorbed by the rhythm, the movements and the energy, you forget Hazra teaches while sitting.

An accident in 1999 resulted in the fracture of her backbone and has since restricted her movement.

“I was bed-ridden due to the accident and I thought it was the end of my career. It was very shocking and depressing, I thought I’d never be able to get up, I was even told I was a failure,” she gets misty-eyed as she recalls the tough days.

She could not leave the bed for several months, but in the midst of all her agony she somehow found the determination to pass on her art to those willing to learn. She could not get up yet, but she began to teach again.

“It was my students who inspired me. Their love and faith in me has kept me going all these years. I cannot dance with them while I teach; I just monitor their movements and get up sometimes, if needed, to correct them,” she says.

Her students, many of whom are now performers and teachers themselves, come from various nationalities and age groups. And her annual cultural event ‘Nrityanjali’ is one of the most awaited shows among classical dance lovers in the UAE.

“I was referred by a friend and only in about two years of learning my daughter has been able to perform in her annual function in the school,” says Jayasri, mother of Arya, a student in Millennium School. “It seems she forgets time whenever she is with her dance teacher; she doesn’t want to go anywhere else and I feel grateful that my child has got this opportunity to learn from her.”

Hazra doesn’t believe in the common perception that to learn classical dance one has to start early in life. In fact a number of her students are adults, who during their childhood yearned to learn dancing but somehow never got around to doing it. “I have had a 50-year-old student and many in their 30’s and 40’s . Dance is an expression, there can be no barriers if you have it within you,” she says. “And it is not only Indian classical dance, one can learn any dance form – every dance is good,” she adds.

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