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Rimli Roy dreams to take Indian dances to Broadway


Ashok Ojha/SATimes

Rimli Roy, an artist with expertise in various classical and folk dance forms of India, easily charms her audience. She demonstrates a delicate balance between her movements and expressions when she performs Odissi, a celebrated form that evolved in the temples of Orissa. With her attractive gestures she often receives loud applauses from her audience. Her performance is fresh breath of air that is free from gimmicks of Bollywood dances. Her shows depict literary works of Ravindra Nath Tagore and various classical dance dramas.

Based in New Jersey, Rimli has established her cultural institution in Jersey City where she teaches and prepares her troupe for performances. A gifted dancer, she is very passionate about bringing authentic Indian culture on stage in USA. She has inherited musical and dancing talents from her parents who were involved in teaching and performing Hindustani vocal music and classical dances.

Born and brought up in Calcutta, Rimli began to take her formal lessons in Indian classical dancing at the age of four. She performed for the first time on stage at the age of six and soon became part of her father’s cultural troupe.

In addition to learning dance and music she continued her education and graduated as an Information Technology professional. As an employee of an Indian IT firm she moved to the US in the 1990s. She settled with her husband Rajesh Roy in the waterfront district of Newport in Jersey City. Her creativity found final expression in Surati, a performing arts academy that she founded in 2002. As director and instructor, she teaches Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Manipuri, folk, contemporary and other creative dance forms and is committed to promoting Indian art and culture through dance, music, drama, arts and crafts.

Last year she organized a cultural event to celebrate India through the festival of Holi. The event was a great success and was well received. It is now an annual feature aimed at bringing the community and artists together.

Recently The South Asian Times representative Ashok Ojha met Rimli and asked some candid questions. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q. Which dance form you feel most comfortable with?

Rimli Roy: Odissi is my favorite and it demands gentle movement and gesture through various parts of the performer’s body. I like to do Bharatanatyam and Manipuri also but my shows integrate songs and dances to tell a story. I must say that our culture is very rich with a variety of graceful stories that can be transformed into spectacular shows on stage.

Q. How difficult it was for you to establish your institute in New Jersey?

Rimli: I am a teacher and a performer. I like to train learners of Indian classical and semi classical dance forms with focus and hard work. One has to be passionate about learning Indian dances. It took a long time to establish Surati, where young students enjoy learning and performing. I train them to bring quality and grace in their performance. I received support from my family, friends and officials who appreciate Indian culture. People by Mona Sen and Bill LaRosa of Hudson Cultural Council were very kind to support my efforts.

Q. How do you compete with other dance groups, which prefer to bank upon the popularity of Bollywood movies?

Rimli: Bollywood movies don’t represent the Indian culture. However, popular movies leave deep imprints on the minds of viewers who develop fancy for songs and dances they watch in movies. So the audience seems to enjoy Bollywood dances. It doesn’t mean that they will not like traditional dances which inspired most Bollywood dances. A good Bollywood choreographer is most likely a good classical dancer also. Indian dance traditions are a treasure of interesting dance forms that were performed in temples, during festivals, village fairs or social occasions. One doesn’t need to copy Bollywood to create an entertaining stage performance. Dance operas like Kalidasa’s ‘Shakuntalam’ is immortal and an example of a popular classical dance drama. Some day I would like to create such a show and perform on Broadway.

Q. What has been the response of the Indian community toward your shows?

Rimli: Indian American community has been very responsive to my programs. We organize cultural events on the occasions of important festivals like Holi and Diwali. These programs have grown into popular events that young students and family members like to attend and enjoy. These shows are our tribute to Indian tradition and culture.

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