#RevelsConnects: Musical Connections

Neena Gulati: Dancing to Connect

February 01, 2022 Revels Season 2 Episode 1
Neena Gulati: Dancing to Connect
#RevelsConnects: Musical Connections
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#RevelsConnects: Musical Connections
Neena Gulati: Dancing to Connect
Feb 01, 2022 Season 2 Episode 1

Neena Gulati was born in New Delhi, India, and began dancing at only four years old. She performed her arangetram, a graduation recital, at the Fine Arts Theater, New Delhi in 1961 to rave reviews, and was called "one of the leading young Bharatanatyam dancers in the capital." A master of the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam, Neena Gulati has received high critical acclaim for her performances throughout India and the United States. An energetic and loving teacher, and founder of the Triveni School of Dance, Neena has been described as a "pioneer in bringing classical Indian dance in all its nuance to New England" (The Boston Globe). Come along on a new #RevelsConnects: Musical Connections journey as Neena discusses her history as a dancer and educator, and how she has connected with others through Indian classical dance. Hosted by Maggie Holtzberg, Folk Arts & Heritage Program Manager at the Mass Cultural Council.

Each #RevelsConnects: Musical Connections podcast is a follow-up to a 45-minute salon-style performance with the featured musician, premiering on Facebook Live and available on the Revels YouTube channel. Visit Revels Inc. on YouTube to learn more!

The #RevelsConnects Musical Connections series is sponsored in part by a grant from The Ithaka Foundation and produced in collaboration with the Mass Cultural Council. Audio engineered by Dave Jamrog Audio/Video.

Show Notes Transcript

Neena Gulati was born in New Delhi, India, and began dancing at only four years old. She performed her arangetram, a graduation recital, at the Fine Arts Theater, New Delhi in 1961 to rave reviews, and was called "one of the leading young Bharatanatyam dancers in the capital." A master of the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam, Neena Gulati has received high critical acclaim for her performances throughout India and the United States. An energetic and loving teacher, and founder of the Triveni School of Dance, Neena has been described as a "pioneer in bringing classical Indian dance in all its nuance to New England" (The Boston Globe). Come along on a new #RevelsConnects: Musical Connections journey as Neena discusses her history as a dancer and educator, and how she has connected with others through Indian classical dance. Hosted by Maggie Holtzberg, Folk Arts & Heritage Program Manager at the Mass Cultural Council.

Each #RevelsConnects: Musical Connections podcast is a follow-up to a 45-minute salon-style performance with the featured musician, premiering on Facebook Live and available on the Revels YouTube channel. Visit Revels Inc. on YouTube to learn more!

The #RevelsConnects Musical Connections series is sponsored in part by a grant from The Ithaka Foundation and produced in collaboration with the Mass Cultural Council. Audio engineered by Dave Jamrog Audio/Video.

Maggie Holtzberg: Neena Gulati is the founder-director of Triveni School of Dance. Born in New Delhi, India, she began dancing at age four. She performed her arangetram, her debut concert, in 1961, where critics applauded her style, placing her as one of the leading young Bharatanatyam dancers in the capital. Six years later, she moved to the United States. A master of the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam, Neena Gulati has received critical acclaim for her performances throughout India and the United States. The Boston Globe described her as “a pioneer in bringing classical Indian dance, in all its nuance, to New England.” She’s also revered as an energetic and loving teacher. Neena Gulati, welcome to Musical Connections. 

Neena Gulati: Thank you. 

MH: I’d like to begin by having you tell us about your early training and if it was in the guru-shishya tradition. 

NG: Well training of Indian classical dance is always considered something that the guru, or teacher, is sharing with the disciple. So the shishya is the disciple. So from day one that I started learning at four, I was told to touch the feet of my guru, so then he would give me blessings, and I started my dance journey. The first, actually, eight years were a little chaotic because I started in New Delhi and then my dad’s job took us to Mumbai, so there I was searching for another Bharatanatyam teacher, did not find one near my house, so I started learning Manipuri. In fact, my first stage performance was in Manipuri style, which is from Northeast India. Then when I joined Saint Anne’s school in Mumbai, I found out that there is a guru that comes to the school to teach Bharatanatyam. And that was amazing because that’s what I wanted to continue learning. And I started with this guru, Sri Krishna Kutir, and I learned for three and a half years. And then my dad’s job moved us back to New Delhi. So now, then I was - my parents enrolled me in a school called Triveni Kala Sangam. That’s where that name also has stayed with me. And that is the school where I stayed for eight years, and then my guru in that school, Guru N.V Venkatraman, he moved and he left the school and started his own company called Natya Sudha. And I really liked his style of teaching, so I left Triveni and followed my guru to Natya Sudha. So it is with this guru, Guru Venkatraman, that in 1961, I did my graduation recital, called arangetram, and I continued with him until I came to the USA in 1963. 

MH: Oh, 1963.

NG: So what it is is that I was at Lady Irwin College, in New Delhi. And Lady Irwin College had an exchange program with Briarcliff College in New York. And for the past twenty years, they had been exchanging. So a student from Lady Irwin would come to Briarcliff, and a student from Briarcliff would go to Lady Irwin. And the host family of that student, you know, would sort of take care of me when I’m here, and my parents took care of Sissy Winston, who went to New Delhi. So it’s during my study at Lady Irwin that I did quite a few performances in Westchester County, and that is where, in 1964, I have no idea how they reached me, but I did my performance at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. And that was a very exciting experience to be up there with all the dignitaries in this gigantic hall. And I was going to perform with two other dancers, who I had never met before, but all three of us were professional in that we had done our graduation recital, the arangetram. So we picked a piece that basically all Bharatanatyam dancers know. It was a six-minute fast piece, rhythmic piece, and we re-choreographed, and then the three of us performed it. After that, the next year, actually, we gave a lot of performances in New York, with- CBS invited me, they were doing a special thing on child relief and you, and then several other multicultural events. In fact, my last one was in 1965 at Columbia University, where they were celebrating July 4th for some reason, why they invited me, I don’t know. But my husband was in the audience there. I mean, he wasn’t my husband and I didn’t know him, he was a student at Columbia doing his Master’s. So, and he came backstage and met me, and introduced himself, and then, of course, my two years at Briarcliff were ending, and he knew I was returning to India in a few weeks, so he proposed to me. And I said “I think you need to talk to your parents, you need to talk to my parents,” because in India, the tradition of arranged marriage is still there. I mean, in the very Orthodox, conservative families, the girl doesn’t even have a say. Whoever the parents recommend, you just go with it. But my parents were very liberal, very educated, I mean, that’s why they allowed me to come for two years to New York on my own. So I was very lucky, and so they were happy to meet with this young man. 

But, so anyway, he did write, my husband Raj, he did write to his parents and my parents, so when I went back, we all met, and they were all happy with it, with the idea. So anyway, then while I was waiting for him to finish his Master’s at Columbia, I started working at All India Radio Broadcasting. We did, we traveled the entire Northeast and performed along the border area near, almost near Darjeeling, in the northeast corner. Anyway, so I continued to perform, in New Delhi, with this All India Radio dance department. And then my husband returned, Raj returned, and we got married, and we were back in New York because he wanted to do his PhD at Columbia. So anyway, in 1966 December we were married, 1967 January we came to New York, and 1968, the day my son was born, he got an offer from the Stop and Shop companies to be the operations - his degree, he was from the IIT in India, which is like the MIT in the USA, the topmost institute in technology. And his Master’s and PhD were in operations research. So Stop and Shop companies wanted him to do all their marketing and locations research. So they offered him a good job. So before we knew, 1968 summer, we moved to Boston. And here again, I met with different people at MIT and Harvard, and talked about my dance background, I gave performances. A few Indian families in the audience started to approach me, “please, teach our children also, we would love to,” and I had never thought about it. So I told them, I said “right now, I’m in a two-bedroom apartment, but we are looking for a house. When I have a studio, I will definitely call you.” 

MH: So interesting, so were these, when you were doing those early performances in New York, were you performing for a general audience, or were you performing for an Indian audience. 

NG: No, it was all mixed. So I think very few audience… performances were for the Indian… I did one for the Asia Institute that was all mixed. They had some Indians. I performed for the Indian Consulate, that was an Indian audience mostly. But Oxfam, we did a benefit for Oxfam, that was mostly non-Indian. So it varied. And in the summers, of course I was not going back to India, I was teaching dance in Westchester County at Fox Lane High School, they had - 

MH: Wait wait wait, we have to stop. I went to Fox Lane High School. 

NG: Oh you did? 

MH: So what year was-

NG: They brought teachers from India, yes, and one of them was my teacher from New Delhi who came, it was very exciting. And that I was there that summer, real coincidence. Mrs. G., I still remember her name. So this was near Bedford, Bedford, New York. And my host family was, oh my gosh, how can I forget their name…

MH: No, it’s fascinating because my understanding is, your school was one of the earliest, first schools- like today, there are many schools of Indian dance, but weren’t you- 

NG: Yes, but that’s when I came to Massachusetts, that I started. In 1971, when I moved to this house, where I’m sitting now, we bought this house in April - in March, and we moved in April 1971. And that’s when I called those parents who had given me their names and numbers, and so Triveni officially started in April 1971. 

MH: And at that time, at that time, were there any other schools of Indian dance?

NG: No, there was nobody else teaching, I was the first person to start teaching here, and as I said, now it is over 50 years. 

MH: Well congratulations. 

NG: And Revels is also celebrating their 50th year, so we are doing something together, that’s very special, right. 

MH: Wonderful. Talk to me about how you got involved with Revels, and what that experience was like?

NG: Well, that was quite a connection. In 1997, December, Triveni was invited by a Revels group to perform in their Christmas Revels. I had never done so many performances back to back with live orchestra. But they were going to do- their focus was myth and folklore, and one of the stories they were going to enact was from the Hindu myth on Lord Shiva’s sons Murugan and Ganesha. And we used our team for that performance. 

MH: In your Revels Connects Musical Connections performance, you shared three types of Indian dance, Kuchipudi, Odissi, and Bharatanatyam. I was wondering if you could characterize each of these styles in a few words, and how they differ. 

NG:  Sure. Well Bharatanatyam is the most popular, so in India, if anybody talks about the three styles, they would almost, I would say, forty percent would do Bharatanatyam, twenty percent doing Kuchipudi, fifteen percent doing Odissi, and then there are few other styles, Kathak, Manipuri, that others would do. Bharatanatyam is known for very crisp, geometric movements, and it’s from the Tamil Nadu state, and most of its songs, music, is in Tamil, but we have Sanskrit songs, and that is the style that I did my graduation recital, the arangetram was all pure Bharatanatyam. In fact, in India, just like over here, except for like the Triveni academy where I went, they had many gurus teaching all different styles, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, and all. But anyway, in New England, I would say all over USA, Triveni School is the only school that teaches three different styles. And in arangetrams too, we really enjoy promoting them. I mean, having the students perform all three styles. So ninety percent of them do that, they will start with the- it will have some Bharatanatyam of course, then some Odissi, and then Kuchipudi. Kuchipudi is usually a more vibrant dance style, and it started in the village, so it has also folk flavor to it, they will have Kuchipudi dancers put a pot on their head to balance, and they’ll be standing, balancing on a brass plate. So that gives it the folk flavor. So Kuchipudi differs from Bharatanatyam in that. Odissi, which is from the Odisha state, is more lyrical, I find it spiritually very uplifting, the music is truly, absolutely the most- I would say, not just spiritually uplifting but also very soulful. That’s the word I was looking for, very soulful, and so the Odissi style uses, is more complex because it uses a lot of very subtle torso movements. It has, it doesn’t have just the straight form that we have in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, it also has all the bends, and then the torso movement, which, yes, which is very critical. So they bring that up in what they call tribhangi, or the three bends. So the head and the hip will bend to one side and the knee will go to other way. And also the rhythm in Odissi is more complicated because eighty percent of the beats are offbeat, so you don’t go “one, two, three,” you go “and-one, and-two, and-three, and-four.” So that offbeat is- makes it a little more difficult, because the students have to not just start with the first, they have to go “and,” so you give a stamp for the and, and then one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three, yes. 

MH: Question, so my memory is that for, am I right that a tabla is what is used in Odissi versus a mridangam- 

NG: No, it’s called, actually it’s similar to a tabla, but it’s called pakhwaj. Pakhwaj has a little more of a crisper beat than the tabla. For Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, we use the mridangam, which is the big drum, and Kathak is tabla, but Odissi uses pakhwaj. And Odissi uses Hindustani music, which is from the north, and Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi use Carnatic music, which is from the south. 

MH: So speaking of music, I wanted to ask you to describe the difference between playing, I mean dancing with live music, musicians on stage with you, versus to recorded music. 

NG: Oh, there is no substitute. I mean, live music is so special. And it’s also, it’s not just the dancer that has to create the ambiance, she has this wonderful group of musicians that fill the auditorium with their beautiful vocal and the drum, and the veena, the violin. So definitely, and in fact, in India, still they hardly ever do it with recorded, with pre-recorded music. They will use live orchestra. Well of course, the two years I was a student in New York, I had no options, I didn’t have my guru and my musicians here, so I depended on pre-recorded music. And even when I started teaching, the only pre-recorded music I had was the very complicated dances that I did as an, as an advanced performer. But to teach little children, then I had to search for simpler music, choreograph very simple pieces, but it was all with pre-recorded music. It was.. even the initial ten years that we did the arangetrams, the graduations, it was with pre-recorded music. Until one of the moms, she knew a flutist, living close to her, and she came and said “Neenaji, for my daughter, please can we have live music, my friend Dr. Martel who is a flutist, knows vocalists and drummers.” And I was so grateful to her to have got this thing going, because now, last, almost 25 years, we have used pre-recorded music for all of our graduation recitals. And of course, some of them, even the performances we did for Revels, Revels always wanted a live orchestra. So of course, you need a little bigger budget when you want to have, because you have to pay the five musicians, and that’s another reason- yes, go ahead.

MH: I was going to ask, so has it become easier to- let’s say you had the budget, but has it become easier to find musicians to perform with your dancers? And the other question is, I believe if you - you can study this music, but to be able to play for dance is much more challenging than just performing on a concert. 

NG: Oh yes, because there are lots and lots of musicians all over New England. But you have to find a mridangam player who knows how to follow a dancer. Right. In fact, there are some drummers who just don’t want to do that, so they stay with the musicians, you know, with the vocalists. So they are, I’m very fortunate, I have an excellent mridangamist who’s been with me for twenty-five years.

MH: Who is that?

NG: His name is Gaurishankar Chandrashekhar.

MH: I know Gaurish. I know of him. 

NG: Yes, because he did apply to Mass Cultural Council for a grant. I did put in a recommendation for him when he was applying because he is truly a master. And he is very dedicated to it, he makes sure that we, you know, do everything authentically. If a slight piece with the rhythm is slightly off, right away, he’ll say “Neenaji, let’s repeat, let’s do it right.” So he’s always on my right side, and I say “Gaurish, I’m so happy.” And because we have known each other for so long, even though he is great demand, there are thirty other teachers all over, you know, teaching. And he will always come to me first and say, “Please, give me the dates of your concerts for 2022 so that i can block them, and only then I will accept the others.” So I am very lucky to have these people, even our veena player, Dr. Ram Naidu, is an amazing veena player, he’s been with me also for twenty-five years. So I’m really lucky. And we have some excellent vocalists too, one of our best vocalists, Maitreyi Sharma, she was a student at Wellesley College when she started singing for my concerts. Then she went to medical school, and she became a doctor, now she’s a mother, you know, with her own daughter dancing, and she still loves to, you know, make time, and sing for our concerts. So we are very lucky, we have actually five very talented vocalists who all love to sing at our concerts. 

MH: That’s wonderful. I wanted to talk, I wanted you to talk about the abhinaya, the facial expressions and the storytelling aspect of Bharatanatyam, some for audience that might not be familiar with that.

NG: Well, actually, it’s not just in Bharatanatyam, we have abhinaya in all our classical dance forms. It is a very important part, in fact, you know they will often compare the western ballet with Indian classical dance, because both of them are very ancient art forms, both require many many years of training, because rules govern every part of the body. But what differentiates us from the ballet is our elaborate mime, our abhinaya as you said. Because here, a dancer uses a variety of hand gestures, facial expressions, body postures, to, and you can tell any story, from a very simple one to the most complicated, you know, theme from one of the Hindu epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, you take any of those very complicated stories, it can all be done, because we use the abhinaya as a very important tool, you know, in the dance. And of course, in abhinaya, the most important is the eyes. In the Natya Shastra, which is the history of dance, the first chapter on the abhinaya darpana it says “where the hand goes, the eye follows, where the eye goes, the heart follows, where the heart goes, the mood follows, where there is mood, that is the flavor we present to you, the audience.” So the eyes, that’s even why in our makeup, the eyes are always done with very strong definition, yeah?

MH: No, that’s beautiful. Right, because we don’t- you don’t think of that when you think of ballet. 

NG: Exactly, no.

MH: Well more on that topic, the importance of Hindu mythology-

NG: Right. 

MH: And I’m wondering how important it is for the audience to know Hindu mythology and those stories to appreciate Indian classical dance.

NG: Well I know, I mean, many many people in the audience here do not know anything about it, so from the very beginning, I have always demonstrated the story so that the audience will see what I’m saying. You know, like a simple story, Krishna the Cow-Herd, whose blue body is like the thundercloud, so they can see, this is Krishna, this is the Cow-Herd, this is the thundercloud. You know, so always, no matter how small a program I do, or if it’s a full two-hour concert, I will make sure that any dance that has abhinaya, I will demonstrate the story, make sure the audience gets an idea what it is, what we are dancing about. Then they are able to really follow and have a rapport with the artist, right, otherwise things are going to go over their head. I mean, I can talk about a demon, I can talk about Ravana, the Ten-Headed, and if I don’t demonstrate and tell them, “This is Ravana, the Ten-Headed,” how are they going to follow it? So, yes, very, very, important, not... very few other dancers do it, and I’m puzzled, because after every concert, invariably, a few people from the audience will come to me and say “Thank you so much for explaining the story, we found it much richer, and we were able to appreciate the dance more.” So yes, because even in India, not everybody has, you know, learned dance, so they don’t know that this is for Krisha, this is for Shiva, this is for Durga, riding on her lion, you know, they don’t know all of these. So even there, when I’ve done demonstrations, you know, lecture-demonstrations, it’s really important to tell the story. 

MH: I was going to ask that, I mean I- in talking about, it’s fascinating, of course that heightens the experience, it’s such an integral part of the dance, and the cultural context of the dance…

NG: True, yes. 

MH: But I was wondering, in this day and age, in India, even, you know, how fluent the general population is in understanding these, as you call them, like sign language gestures.

NG: In South India, where these three styles are from, mainly the Bharatanatyam and the Kuchipudi, and they know the language Tamil, also, they are more attuned to the Carnatic music and the South Indian classical dance styles. They may not need such detailed explanation, they would know more. But in North India, where I’m from, I think of my own parents, who have watched me dance, you know, since I was a four-year-old, they don’t know, they have no idea that this is Shiva, this is Krishna, this is Durga. So thinking of them, in North India, where I’m from, I always demonstrate the story. It’s- since they know much less about it. They can appreciate Kathak dance more, which is from the North, because Kathak uses Hindi, or Urdu, or, you know? So in the North, they know that language, so from the lyrics, they can understand what is being taught. And, in fact, my aunt, who was a beautiful vocalist, she kept asking me “Why don’t I learn Kathak dance?” and then she could sing for me! And I said, “You know, I’ve just found Bharatanatyam to be more, more complete as a dance form.” It has more, a little more… Kathak emphasizes a lot of footwork and all, but Bharatanatyam has a more elaborate and more dramatic element to it. So that’s why I stayed with Bharatanatyam. Sometimes we do use, there is a saintess Mirabai, she sang her songs and those were in Hindi. So I have taken some of those poems of hers and choreographed dances to it. I did, in fact, for ten years, collaborate with Robert Bly, who used to do translations of Mirabai poems. And so we worked together, he would recite the poem and I would dance to it. And suddenly, his poetry had so much more meaning, because I was dancing to it, and my dance reached out to more people, because they connected with his poems. So it was an amazing thing, and he, Robert and I worked very well together. Then, you know, he’s much older, and he’s from mostly Minnesota, so the last ten years we have stopped, but before that, we had traveled, we performed in London, we performed in Los Angeles, and during the Festival of India we were together in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, New York, Boston, of course, we performed many, many times. I remember on Easter Sunday he was here and we packed the hall at Sanders Theatre. So anyway, but his poetry became alive with all this abhinaya of our dance. 

MH: Because you played such an important role in bringing Indian classical dance to Massachusetts, I’m wondering what you think the health of classical Indian dance is here now. What do you think the health of the dances are here in the state?

NG: Oh, I think this dance is going to continue for many, many, many years to come because the parents… there are a lot of Indian families settled all over the USA. I know in New England there is a very large Indian community, and they value the beauty of this dance style. That is why I have students that live in Brookline, but students will come from Rhode Island, from New Hampshire, they’ll come from all over because they want their children to stay in touch with their roots through dance. Because everything else, they’re going to school, they’re learning everything that’s American, and some of them take up piano, and other western music, but dance is very vital for their cultural heritage. In fact, some of the most amazing parents are those who have adopted children from India. Yes, I have this mother, Lindsay, who adopted four girls from India. And she used to live near my house. Then she moved to Amherst, and I gave her names of teachers, and she said, “No, my daughter Tulsi says ‘I’m going to Neena Auntie, and Lindsay would drive her from Amherst, every Saturday she was here.” And she is very grateful to me and other Triveni teachers, you know, for bringing this, keeping Tulsi in touch with her roots. I have several other American mothers who have adopted. In fact, two weeks ago we celebrated the fiftieth birthday of this young lady, Nirmala. She came when she was seven years old, and her mother has also adopted four girls from India. And when she came into my studio, even though she was seven, she looked like a four-year-old, scared little girl, undernourished, no confidence, where am I, what am I doing. And three months of dance, Maggie, you cannot believe, her eyes were sparkling. And when she did her arangetram a few years back, she said “Neena Auntie, I was like a little cocoon, and you gave me wings, and I’m flying.” And then tears rolled in her eyes and mine, and to this day, when she comes, she says “You are my second mother,” third mother, really, she had her natural mother, who unfortunately, you know, abandoned her, then she was raised at Mother Theresa’s orphanage, and then Carol McPherson who brought her to this country, and then, yeah. 

MH: That is such a beautiful story and goes right to the power of culture and how important it is to hold onto traditions like this. 

NG: Super special, as I said, two weeks ago, we heard that it was- she started teaching two of my children’s classes on Mondays, and we found out that her fiftieth birthday was coming, and I said “Oh my god, she’s been with Triveni forty-three years,” and again, tears were rolling, we were all hugging her, and so happy that, you know, she… that dance has boosted her confidence, and she’s been able to keep up with her culture. So it’s- it really is… I have many, many, many stories of, like Tulsi’s and Nirmala’s, and one of my senior adult students is, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary, is writing a book about Triveni and about me, and a big chapter is about the letters that Lindsay and Carol and all these people have written, saying what a joy it was to watch their daughters, you know, keep up with dance. So, yes, it’s been very, very special. 

MH: So you are a real treasure, a gift. 

NG: But, you know, it’s mutual, Maggie. I always wanted to adopt a child, but I didn’t have the guts. I was scared, what am I going to take on? And these mothers brought in, not just one, not two, but four girls, each one of them brought. And another thing I realized, like Nirmala, after a few years of learning, when she started at that time, the tuition per month was thirty dollars. She went to a higher grade, longer class, so I said “Carol, the tuition is thirty-five.” And she said “Let me see how I can budget it.” Right there and then, I honestly had tears in my eyes, Maggie, I said “Carol, please, please, don’t ever pay any tuition, what you have done for Nirmala, no one else could have done.” So from that day, I promised myself no child adopted from India is ever going to pay tuition, and even I included single mothers, who are often struggling. Because to me, Triveni is to keep this art form alive. I never, ever started it to make money, because I’ve been fortunate, my husband supports me very well. And so my daughter, who is a lawyer, she’s helped me make it a nonprofit. So when, like, Nirmala did her… we have a big scholarship fund. So when Nirmala did her graduation recital, Triveni paid all the expenses so that she could have a full live orchestra and everything. But it’s been such- it has been an incredible joy to teach these girls.

MH: Well, and what a gift, it’s such a gift, and they are your children. 

NG: They are, they are. 

MH: Right, and the art lives on through them. 

NG: It’s been absolutely amazing, Maggie. I mean, I know that if I had moved to Amherst, and my daughter wanted to go to Brookline, I’d say “You’re mad, find a teacher here, I’m not driving to Brookline.” But these mothers made the time for these kids, you know? So I’m in awe of them, and I mean, they always praise me, but I say “You are the real heroes here, who are giving these young girls, who have been, you know, discarded. Well little Nirmala was discarded on a railway platform, and some good soul took her into the shelter, but you know, but, now, look, she’s up here, she’s got a career, she got married, she has two daughters, you know? Oh, it’s so special. Dance has been so incredible. 

MH: And you’ve been incredible. Thank you so much for what you’ve done and continue to do. I’m going to say, as we start to wrap up, is there anything I haven’t thought to ask that you might want to, that you wish to add to this conversation? 

NG: No, I just, as you had said, is this dance going to say, and I said definitely. Right here at Triveni, I have so many dancers who have been with me since they were five years old, and now they are all thirty-five, forty. I have this young girl, well, she is not young anymore, she’s thirty-six. But she walked in a few months ago to the studio, she said “Neena Auntie, thirty years since I’ve been coming here!” And I said “Yes, and thirty more, you’re going to keep coming, and Neena Auntie will go but you’re going to keep Triveni alive.” And she said “Absolutely.” And as I said, I’ve had a lot of support from my husband. He built me a big studio, originally fifty years of teaching from the basement in this house, but he built me another, separate, big studio, which is all just Triveni. And so, God will be kind, and will keep Triveni going so more children can learn this beautiful art form. It is. It’s a beautiful art form. 

MH: Thank you, Neena Gulati, for keeping Indian classical dance so vibrant, and providing for these young women, and for joining us on Musical Connections. Thank you.

NG: No, thank you so much. Thank you for letting me share my story. Thank you.