VoxTalks With Ritika Chandra : Of Bringing The Poignant Art Form Of Ballet To Contemporary India

Ballet. Such a magical word. When we hear the word, the first images we get are a group of people, perfectly in sync, with an unparalleled grace and control. The Wikipedia definition of ballet only reiterates this fact by saying, an artistic dance form performed to music, using precise and highly formalised set steps and gestures. In this context today we are talking to Ritika Chandra who runs one of the finest Ballet schools in India, Elan Ballet, in the country’s capital. We got conversing about the Renaissance art form of Ballet, it’s contemporary essence, and the effort of bringing such an elegant art to India. Our conversations with Ritika Chandra follow…

You run a Ballet performance school by name Elan Ballet. In this regard, we are curious, as to what prompted you to start the school within the nation, which obviously is deeply rooted in its cultural stance? How would you say Elan Ballet fits in with the modern art philosophy and traditional ethos existing in the country?

While India is still deeply rooted in its culture and heritage, there is a definite influence of the West seen in all spheres of life. This influence is only increasing day by day. Similarly, in the world of dance, we find that the demand for western forms are gaining popularity and dancers are on the lookout for good studios where they can train and thus master their skills. Keeping with the changing times, Elan Ballet thus offers a platform for all such dancers to improve their technique and gain a strong foundation through intensive training in ballet.

We practically have never come across a Ballet School before. Could you perhaps tell us briefly as to what the school stands for and also how do you construct the learning process within the school, the stages or levels etc? What’s the take in each of these levels?

Elan Ballet as a company stands for working on a dancer’s base foundation and perfecting their technique. We have various level batches for both adults and children. The adults also have a professional training batch which focuses on artists that wish to make a career out of the dance. We also plan on introducing a strict 6-8 year study program targeting young dancers who aspire to take up ballet professionally. All dancers are also offered support in auditioning in schools abroad and in applying for scholarships.

If we have seen Ballet schools less, we have seen Ballet dancers even lesser. In this context, we are curious as to the story of Ritika Chandra. Where does she hail from? What made her connect with this dance form than any other. And more importantly what prompted her to bring out a platform of a western dance school in an Indian setup, via Elan Ballet?

Ritika Chandra is a professional ballet dancer based in New Delhi, who has been trained extensively both within India and abroad. Having watched a ballet performance on television at the age of three, she knew in her heart that that was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Her family struggled for many years to find a school for her to pursue her dreams in a country that barely recognised ballet as a dance form. She finally began her training only at the age of eleven. Having struggled in her own dancing career, she understood the challenges faced by dancers who had aspirations similar to hers and thus decided on providing them with a platform via which they could turn their dreams into reality.

As an observer of the art form, what are your thoughts about the acceptability of various art forms in the present day society? Would you say the increased exposure to global culture via platforms like YouTube/Facebook/Soundcloud etc, has further enhanced fusion arts or has it in some way diluted the culture of pure arts? What would you say when we speak specifically about Ballet?

The acceptance of art forms in our society is increasing day by day. While it still isn’t extremely common and finding the right kind of support in our country remains a challenge; with the mindset changing and parents encouraging their kids more and more to pursue their dreams, the future for arts definitely looks bright. Nowadays the world is an even smaller place owing to the internet and social media. It’s easy to find and connect with the right kind of people and form networks that seemed only a distant dream in the past. Cross-cultural exchange both in the form of content and experiences has been made possible via these platforms at just the click of a button. As far a ballet is concerned, it works the same way. Being able to connect with like-minded people both in India and abroad and forming collaborations, just makes it that much simpler in moving towards one’s goals.

How has the experience of establishing a ballet exclusive school been for you till now? Where do you intend to take this platform and what would be your ideas to appeal to the present age of art enthusiasts? And is it a safe assumption to say that Ballet could be learned by anyone. What would you say the prime essentials for learning this art form?

Personally, and professionally it has been both exciting and challenging to set up and run Elan Ballet. Years of planning has gone into how to execute the vision of not just having another school in India, but to really try and create a professional environment for dancers to study classical ballet, both theoretically and practically while at the same time working on a dancer’s performance skills. The studio at Elan Ballet has been equipped with a sprung floor, which is uncommon in India. This type of flooring is ideal for all kinds of dancers especially for ballet and gymnastics as it cushions the landing of an artist while doing big jumps and flips, thus reducing the chances of injuries.

The platform provided at Elan Ballet provides education of the highest standard making sure that no compromise is made in providing the right kind of training to the right kind of dancer. Having overcome various challenges through my career in finding the best possible training for me, I would like to stand as a role model to all the young art enthusiasts out there only to make them realise that they can follow their dreams too. I firmly believe that if one has faith in themselves, a little bit of hard work is all it takes to get onto the path to achieving one’s goals.

Ballet can definitely be learnt by anyone. However, to dance at a professional level takes years of training and conditioning one’s body. The prime essentials for this art form are discipline, dedication and perseverance along with good fitness levels and the potential to grasp combinations and exercises.

That was Ritika Chandra bringing something incredible to the cultural richness of the country. Looking to pull out your dancing shoes, well follow Elan Ballet school on its Facebook, and Website for more.

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