Occupation: Dancer-storyteller (Performing artist)
Ipshita Rajesh, Uppsala, Sweden
Mine is a family that, like most Tamil middle-class families that came from the South to Bombay in search of better pastures, swore by education. So naturally, I was admitted into one of the best schools in our city, and fared quite well (though now I think that’s barely something to be proud of…. there’s so much more that matters than scoring well!)
This is the first of the ‘one thing/person’ questions that is so difficult to answer, for there’s not just one! So here goes my list:
- My great grand mother: She was strong, a pillar of the family, someone that cared for all of us, extremely well travelled, meticulous in everything she did.
- My parents: For teaching me how to balance life, and how to enjoy in-the-now.
- My dance teacher: For instigating my curiosity of the ways in which Bharatanatyam can be used to reach out to a wider audience
- My husband: For his AMAZING world views and perspectives, and the way he deals with life, and sails through life.
I don’t know what sparked my love for dance, because I don’t have very clear memories of how I felt when I was first enrolled into dance-classes. But what kept me going is the ability to express myself through expressions, to embody different characters that made me live so many lives though I have just one. It fills me with a sense of satisfaction and though it might make me physically exhausted, that exhaustion is exhilarating.
The dance is one of the eight styles of Indian classical dance called Bharatanatyam. It is usually accompanied by the south-Indian classical music style called Carnatic music.
Though all through my school days I was sure I wanted to be a professional performing artist, I got lost somewhere in-between and followed the herd by enrolling for the Chartered Accountancy (CA) course. I began working in Ernst and Young while simultaneously attending high school and studying for the CA course. It was nothing short of hell for me – and I don’t mean that those who are pursuing this are living in hell. What I mean is that for me it drained all my creative energies – I worked long hours poring over vouchers and accounts and laws and ledgers and numbers…. and I worked for such long hours that I did not have the time to continue dancing. It brought out the worst in me – I was frustrated and angry and irritable, and all that would pour out on my family every single day.
My parents and my sister supported me in this pursuit, but there were quite a few family members and friends that openly showed their displeasure at me letting go of this ‘lucrative, white-collared’ profession and choosing dance (said sometimes with an upturned lip and raised eyebrow). My grand-mother was concerned, “Who will marry you if you are a dancer!” But I think that worked out pretty well for me! *wink* Some of my relatives insisted that I finish the CA course (by studying two more whole years at least) and then give it up – my answer to them was, why invest time and energy into something I know I would never pursue? I’d rather invest those two years into becoming better at what I wanted to! And that was sorted, for I have mostly felt very strongly about things I wanted to do, and marched on.
In India, my audience always understood what I was performing because they could connect with the Indian stories, or the songs, or knew the gesture-language that this genre utilises. My biggest challenge was to communicate these stories to a European audience, first in 2014. I knew right at the start that if I kept performing Indian stories, the audience would never connect wholly with the story, but rather just bits and pieces of it. So whenever I performed Indian stories, my aim would be to allow them to experience the emotions of the characters rather than understand all the nuances of the stories.
Then I began exploring how I could bring more familiar stories to the audience so that it was not merely an ‘exotic’ dance for them. And so my efforts are towards communicating with the audience as much of the story as possible, and making them part of these stories.
I am collaborating with artists of different genres of performing arts – be it dance, oral story-telling, or clowning, to create performances aimed at children and young adults where stories can be ‘told’ using words, movements, and bodily expressions.
I am involved in, and building up, two very interesting projects: E-Artined and Dansa en bok, both of which target arts integration, that is, learning/literacy through movement.
I’m also involved in art in healthcare by performing for children in hospitals, as well as those in the psychiatric wards.
- It continues to help me believe in myself, and believe that if you listen carefully, you’ll find answers within yourself
- It continues to help me think and act hands-on, and try and be in-the-now
- It continues to help me be more accepting of people and situations
- To build a home (The Cinematic Orchestra) – brings back memories of the innumerable places I/we call home
- Budapest (George Ezra) – brings back memories of my Erasmus Masters, and of friends in France
- Aaj jaane ki zidd na karo
The greatest compliment you have received
It was the most silent, yet loudest compliment ever – it was my first performance in Szeged, a little student-city in Hungary, where I inaugurated the ‘Faces of India’ exhibition at the Mora Ferenc Museum. I performed a very classical dance piece, to a very Carnatic song, and was quite sure no one would have understood. At the end, an old, very wrinkled lady slowly walked up to me, knew that I spoke no Hungarian, and she spoke no English. She looked into my eyes through her thick glasses, slowly smiled, her eyes were moist. She touched her right-hand to her chest, then touched me on my right arm, held it there for a good two-minutes, slowly nodded a few times, again touched her chest, slowly turned, and slowly walked away.
Your greatest fear
Of losing my memory – all the wonderful memories I have.
The most courageous thing you have done
Followed my heart
Your philosophy for life
My happiness is up to me.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
For more info about Ipshita Rajesh, visit,