Usha RK, a Bharatanatyam dancer, has been working towards realising her dream of promoting the classical art forms for over four decades. Recently, she was made the director of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Center (JNCC) of the Embassy of India in Moscow.
“I had worked in mass entertainment, cinema and theatre, but I realised that classical art forms were my soul. I started working towards promoting younger artists to create the next generation of performers and give them the kind of visibility they require,” shares Usha.
Usha, who has begun dancing after watching her sister perform during her dance classes, always thought of dancing as her passion. Recognising her talent, the teacher offered to take classes at no cost. “I come from a very conventional family. While we were encouraged to learn, becoming a professional dancer wasn’t an option. It was my father who encouraged me to get into research. He gifted me ‘Nataraja by Sivaramamurthy’ on my 18th birthday, and I was fascinated by what I learnt,” she explains. She realised that her background as a dancer would allow her to understand the needs of the artists better. To this end, she started organising programmes, wherein she could bring together experienced artists along with upcoming and amateur dancers.
For two years, she served as the member secretary of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage for the Ministry of Culture, India. She was responsible for getting Kumbh Mela, the city of Varanasi and Jaipur UNESCO’s recognition. “I think it is the responsibility of technocrats to promote their fields of interest. When I saw a notice from ICCR calling for people to work for JNCC, I applied,” she shares.
During her three-year tenure, she hopes to continue the work the institution has been doing since its inception in 1989. “We have resident teachers in various fields such as kathak, tabla, yoga and even languages such as Sanskrit. I also hope to come up with creative ways to make content more interesting so people who aren’t well-versed in the world of classical art forms can also appreciate the intrinsic value of our traditions succinctly,” she adds.