Welcome to another episode from our Brno Expats Have Talent series. Brno is full of talented people, and some of them are not even from the CR – we’ll introduce one talented expat at a time!
This month, learn about Neha, a charming dancer who brought her precise and intricate art of the traditional Indian kathak to Brno.
NEHA SESHADRINATH (India) – kathak dancer
Watch a short video of Neha’s dance art:
How long have you been practising your art?
Like many children in India, I started attending Indian classical dance classes at a very young age. I have been practicing Kathak, a North Indian classical dance form for the past 20 years and somewhere along the years it became more than just a hobby.
In India, I worked as a principal dancer and faculty member at Abhinava Dance Company (Bangalore). Most of my day would be spent in rehearsals, attending classes and shows, teaching or performing. I had the opportunity to travel with the company and perform in various countries as well.
How do you find living in Brno as an expat and artist?
After living in a big city in India all my life, living in Brno has been a good change. It is big enough to be called a city and small enough to travel around easily and be a part of a well-knit community. When my husband and I moved to Brno in 2017, I wasn’t sure what to expect and how life would be here. But we have been fortunate to have met some amazing people, made a lot of friends and also surprised to see so many Indian restaurants!
I was very determined to continue my practice, whether teaching or performing even here. Living in Brno as an artist has made me more independent and has made me push my boundaries and challenged me to do better. Initially, it was easier than I had expected to start off my dance journey in Brno. With the help of the local community, the Indian community in Brno and also Brno Expat Centre, I was able to conduct workshops, classes and also perform at a few events.
Is it easy to practise your art here?
Initially, I was anxious as I had to establish myself as a solo dancer whereas in India, I was involved more in group work. I was also not sure if the local population was aware of Kathak. But I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming the Czech community was and interested in learning Kathak. Relatively, it has been easier to find teaching opportunities than performance opportunities in Brno. Of course, I had to make some tweaks even to teaching, to the way the dance style is taught and to make it more relatable to the local population.
There are many who join classes with an interest in Indian culture or Bollywood movies, but don’t have much understanding of what Kathak actually is. Hence, I have to begin by making them aware of the different styles of Indian dance and then explain about Kathak.
How different is the audience in the CR compared to your home country?
The audience and students or even the performances are very different here compared to India. As mentioned before, I have to first make the audience or students aware about Kathak whereas in India they already have this basic knowledge. They are also more likely to be aware of the stories and characters that I portray through dance. The performances in India are usually at least 45 minutes long whereas here I am usually asked to do shorter compositions as part of a bigger line up of performances. But I am glad that even with a short performance the audience is able to appreciate and enjoy this dance style.
Where do you find inspiration?
Moving to Brno and establishing myself here has been a very good learning experience. Interacting with people with varied mindsets, different cultures and interests has contributed to how I view my art today and how I hope to pursue it further. I have surely become less rigid and more accommodative. The city in general has also been inspirational as I feel very calm and unhurried here and this has contributed to my creativity.
Do you cooperate with other expats or local Czechs in your activity?
I get to interact and work with a lot of expats and local Czechs through my classes or workshops that I conduct. I have also worked with a few of them on some choreographies and performances.
How can you practise your art now, in the strange covid times?
The past year and this have surely been a very strange and difficult time for artists. With no in-person performances and classes, and everything having shifted online, it has made a lot of us review our mode of working and adapt to these changes. Personally, a lot has changed as I am a mother now to a 6-month-old baby. I managed to take some online classes last year during my pregnancy after which I took a break. I will soon be resuming my classes and workshops.
What are you looking for right now?
I miss the excitement that comes with stage performances and I hope to get back to it soon. So far, I have mainly performed solos or duets and I haven’t worked in group choreographies in Brno. I hope to engage in more collaborative work with local artists and be a part of stage productions.
Photos courtesy by Libor Foltýnek and Focus Photography, Bangalore