Meet Pali Chandra, a Kathak dancer from Dubai, who started out hating dance

“My mother wanted to be a dancer, but her parents did not encourage her. She became a singer,” starts Pali Chandra, a Kathak dancer from Dubai. “Still my mother did not give up. She secretly nurtured a dream of having a daughter who would become a dancer and even named me Amrapali before I was born!” recollects Pali.

But as it is with most children, who are forced to do something, Pali detested dance. “I would go to the class, but refuse to learn anything. This went on for some years, till I went to an aunt’s wedding and was playing hide and seek. That is where my guru, Vikram Singh from the Lucknow gharana, saw me and told my parents that he wanted to teach me Kathak. He said I had the talent to be a dancer. I was barely eight at that time. And no one from my family had ever danced.”

So off she started her training at the Kathak Kendra, New Delhi and gradually found herself learning and enjoying dance. “My guru challenged me all the time. He would always say that I know you can’t do it but I am going to teach you anyway. And that made me angry and I would dance just to prove him wrong,” says Pali.

She is thankful for his patience and gives him all the credit for her recognition on the international scene. She has lived most of her life in London and recently shifted base to Dubai, where she runs a school called Gurukul Dubai. “My aim is to communicate to the western audience a dance, my skill and talent. I will never go on to the stage and show off my skill with a sense of arrogance; I only want to share,” says Pali, who has been on stage for the last 20 years.

Pali loves to keep up with technology . “I use Skype to teach my overseas students,” she smiles. Is it efficient? “Yes, we go slow and then we also meet up regularly for workshops”.

Pali is also open to fusion dance. She collaborates only when she sees complementary similarities and differences in the forms. “Ballet, tap dancing, and flamenco go well with Kathak. They really complement each other and whenever I have collaborated with these styles, we have only received standing ovations.”

Now Pali is in Bangalore to meet Kathak exponent Maya Rao and learn the finer nuances from her. “It’s such a privilege to be with Maya didi. Whatever she gives me will be like prasaad,” she says reverentially.

She also likes to knit contemporary themes into the traditional form of Kathak. Peace, anti-war, global warming have been some of the topics that she has depicted in her choreographies. Pali says that she finds “so much raw talent in Bangalore that I will be back often now. The only thing that frustrates me is when a dancer lets her body go for a toss. A dancer has to look and feel beautiful and healthy to perform. Her body is an instrument for her to perform and it’s better if dancers learn to respect their bodies and keep healthy.”

Those interested in learning from her can log on to gurukuldubai.com or palichandra.com.