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‘ My school is my second child’- Divya Srivastava

Chai latte Productions Presents ADAA: Appreciating Desi Artists in Atlanta
This column will highlight a local artist every month. If you know of anyone who you would like to highlight, please email chailatteproductions@gmail.com.

I sat down with Divya Srivastava, Founder and Director of Geet-Rung School of Dance and Music for a heart-to-heart chat. I left inspired, amazed and invigorated. She is truly one of the most passionate artists I have met.

At what age did you discover that you are a dancer?
I was dancing at the age of four. My parents discovered my talent when I was eleven and I started taking Kathak classes at that age.

Dance over money?
I could make ten times more money as a botanist (my degree is in botany) . However, if God told me that I could be paid ten times more as a botanist, I would still choose dance. I may be making one tenth of what I could be making but I am happy.

 Would you rather be an Artist or a teacher?
In the early days, I was very devoted to art. I love to perform. But now I am so busy with the business and organizing recitals.  Sometimes, I feel like I am losing the artist because of the chores, brochures and trophies.  However, I must perform to keep the artist alive. At the same time, I am happy with my students and I believe each of them represents me. So, the time spent is worth it. However, I do miss my own riyaz.

What drives you as a teacher?
I share what I know about dance and I believe I am good at teaching. Teaching is a profession I love but not as a lecturer.   Traditional teaching is book knowledge and I have to follow a curriculum. Even Kathak has a syllabus but I still have room for creativity.  Teaching for dance comes from within me.

What is your favorite dance?
Kathak-based songs are my favorite, for example, Pakeezah, Umrao Jaan, and Devdas. I have great admiration and awe for Birju Maharaj and Madhuri. My favorite song is “Kahe ched mohe” from Devdas. The movie inspires me to eventually have an event of that caliber. I always wonder if I can justify Devdas songs on stage.

 Is dance a skill or talent?
Dance is talent, then skill. People are born with talent, but not skill. You can’t be skillful without talent.

What would you say to the nondancers?
(Laughs) I usually meet such people and encourage them to come and try. It’s not impossible for nondancers to dance. Impossible means  “I  aM Possible” . I have seen results in people who call themselves nondancers. All you have to do is show faith and follow it.  They may not be as good as a professional dancer but they do feel creatively satisfied.  After a formal training of six months, all of my students are ready to perform on stage.

How do add a monetary value to something as priceless as dance?
To most people, art is passion. To me, it’s devotion. Art is my God, The school: my temple. That’s how I look at art. I do it for devotion. I do it for the art itself.

When I started my classes I did not see it as monetary. I just taught a small group of people.  Word of mouth led me to success and my small hobby developed into a profession.  Today, I earn as well as any other professional. Art holds as much value as any other profession provided you do it professionally and with sincerity.

What is your favorite aspect of dance?
I love good expressions. Expressions should always justify the dance. If there are no expressions, dance is soulless.  But footwork and techniques really matter.

If you made enough income from being an artist (not a teacher), would you switch?
No. I receive more satisfaction when I am teaching students and I really enjoy hearing from parents. I look forward to my classes and my students’ performances on stage. I am not selfish. The point is not to get fame. It is better to share the gift. Then, someone is carrying forward that talent.  I see my students as images of me.

GeetRung School is my second child.
People ask me why I don’t have a second child. But I do have one!  GeetRung is my second baby. I nourish and nurture it. And yes, it comes with a sacrifice. If people realize how much I put into my work they would be surprised. I gave birth to this business. Each year delivering a recital is like delivering a baby. My life revolves around classes, dance and studio events. I do not socialize or attend many parties. I am very happy working six days a week. I love every aspect of my school.

Final thoughts?
Humanity is my religion. For me it’s humanity first, then anything else. My wish for the world is that we would stop thinking about ourselves as Hindu, Muslim, or American.  If we just thought about ourselves as human beings first , we would live in a more peaceful world.

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