Indrani Datta

I’m Indrani Datta in English. I was born in London in 1979 and I lived here until I was for and a half and then my parents and I moved back to India, Calcutta in 1983, and stayed there for seven years until 1990. We came back and the dance took place wherever I went basically.

My dance really started through a very, very important person in my life who was my first nanny. Her family were very into music and the music would always be playing and she realised that even though I couldn’t walk, I could sort of walk in rhythm and hold onto pieces of furniture and depending on what music was playing I would walk differently.

The first show I did was when I was about four, for the mayor of Harringay I think and I remember that the photo had the map of India in the background and I was in a red hand stitched costume in the foreground. One of my mom’s sarees that she hand had stitched herself.

The good thing about moving back at four and a half was that I was back into the bosom of that sort of tough cultural lifestyle, so I saw all of those classical forms in their pure form but at that young age the Bollywood is very easy to connect to and from that, little kids would get inspired and I guess I was one of them. Back in those days the Bollywood Queens were people like Hema Malini. I was aware that there was also that there was Bharata Natyam because of Hema Malini’s dance calibre, and also the other South Indian actresses who were making it big in Bollywood, and they would obviously show different types of Bollywood dancing through the style of Bharata Natyam.

From the very start I knew that learning Kathak would mean more than just doing the steps on a dance class, it meant more a way of life really. My first teacher was a lady called Sumitra Mitra. She was, she still is a very renowned teacher back in Calcutta and she’s one of the main dance teachers in a school called Bani Chakra Academy which is in South Calcutta. And then I moved back to London in 1990 where I continued at the Bhavan Centre in West Kensington in London and that was pretty much all lukhnow gharana and there my guruji was Sushmita Ghosh.

My first job as a dancer was when I was thirteen. A director lady came and saw us in class. And on the third day she approached the teacher and said, I would like to invite some of the dancers for a particular shoot and it was for a very, very famous, at that time, a famous music pop group called UB40.

The first job I had as a sort of Kathak teacher came about really as a just pure coincidental piece of luck. I was sixteen at that time, so obviously my first reaction was oh, absolutely not, But then I thought, well, it’s a challenge. Let’s try. So I said yes initially for three months and I took that class for five years. I have taught Bollywood. This is very much incorporated in my dance class.

I would describe Bollywood dancing as the most wonderful melange of rainbow colours. It has every thing in it. It has Odissi, it has Bharata Natyam, it has Kathak, it has folk, it has sometimes even a little bit of, well, specially Michael Jackson – he’s a big source of inspiration to the young heroes of the day really. So I think Bollywood dancing is the best of all cultures put together in a very small melting pot. And what comes out is magic.