“Instead of just creating beauty through art, why not give to society through dance?” questions Neha Bhate, a professional Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer, who has recently been conferred with the State Youth Icon award. Inspired by revered saints like Sant Dnyaneshwar, Sant Tukaram and Savata Mali Maharaj, Bhate incorporates their work into her performances, giving out a social message.
A young danseuse, Bhate started training in the classical dance form when she was just 11 years old under her mentor, Parimal Phadke. After attaining a Master’s degree in Bharatanatyam from Lalit Kala Kendra, Centre for Performing Arts, Savitribai Phule Pune University in 2010, she chanced upon a meeting with Sanjay Godbole, the person who established Shree Sant Seva Sangh, a spiritual community in the city spreading the works of the above mentioned saints. “A peacock has number of eyes on its feathers but none have vision, likewise, the true vision of all art forms is spirituality or adhyaatma. Any art form is a path leading to the ultimate truth..
This is what he told me and my perspective towards art changed when I was introduced to these works. This isn’t about religion but it is about spirituality which is essential for all. The works of all these saints cross the barriers of race, caste, religion and gender,” explains Bhate.
Her performances have always centred around folk and mythological stories, but not in a way that we’re used to seeing. “I did a show about the characters in Ramayana. There was a scene wherein after Ram’s banishment, his brother, Bharat goes to meet him. But we only know that Bharat came back with Ram’s footwear. What was the conversation these two had? That’s what I try to show through dance and body movement.” Bhate also puts forward the message against caste discrimination by using the couplets or abhangas written by these saints as visual metaphors.
“In every work I do, I ask how this is relevant to the youth today. I feel that we need spirituality to find our true selves. It is these internal solutions that we need to become better human beings,” she notes while speaking about connecting with our conscience. Taking her passion forward and materialising it to serve society, the 30-year-old danseuse started her own dance institution Saadhana Nrityalaya in 2013.
For her next project, this young visionary wants to take her dance performances to schools and interact with students without charging any fee.
Celebrating women in the city, Bhate truly serves as an inspiration for many young enterprising women out there!
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