Making the right moves


Dr Madhvi Mohindra tells Alys Francis that starting her own performing arts academy in Australia was a dream come true

After years performing and working around the world, an eminent Indian classical dancer has realised her lifelong dream to start her own performing arts academy in Australia. Now she’s teaching Sydney Siders how to shake their hips for Bollywood.

Dr MadhviMohindra was born with dancing in her blood in a small rural village in Haryana. Starting lessons from the age of four, she went on to study intricate kathak dance moves under renowned teachers LataEllawadi and RajendraGangani, and performed widely in India and abroad.

After leaving India in 2001, Dr Mohindra and her husband lived in Fiji and New Zealand. But with two young daughters to think about, they eventually packed up again for Australia in 2009.  “I thought Australia [was] the best country for their education and for their career,” Dr Mohindra explains.

Knowing this was a more permanent move, Dr Mohindra realised she could finally put into action the plan that had been forming in her mind throughout her career. “I never had my own academy,” she says, and “that was always my dream”.

Given she came from a well-known family of artists and educationists, it’s perhaps little surprise Dr Mohindra dreamed of combining the two. She had long had a love for teaching, beginning her career as a university lecturer, and before that tutoring when she was still a schoolgirl going to classes. And she had the academic credentials to boot: a degree in dance and music, Masters in Hindi and music, and PhD in music, which saw her researching the benefits of music therapy.

After arriving in Adelaide, Dr Mohindra started scouring the property market but she wasn’t looking for your average family home. Her new place had to be big, and with good reason. It needed to house her new academy, as well as her husband and growing girls.

Eventually she found a housewith two supersized living rooms that “felt like it was meant to be”. She set up one room to teach music and another for dance, where she kept long mirrors so her students could watch their movements. The Elegant Creations was open for business.

“I was getting a very good response [to the academy] in Adelaide,” Dr Mahindra says. With about 14 students, she was steadily building her reputation as a teacher. But the family felt they needed a larger city to spread the wings and so in 2012 they moved to Sydney.

Again Dr Mohindra started searching for a big house. She found what she wanted, a home with a huge two car garage, in Parklea, northwest of Sydney. Next she called in the renovators. The garage was stripped, scrubbed, professional wooden dance flooring was laid, and the walls were lined with mirrors. Here, The Elegant Creations studio could truly live up to its name.

These days, Dr Mohindra’s studio has about 40 students attending lessons in classical Indian dance, kathak, music, singing and Hindi language. Many have big dreams. “Lots of students, they just want to go to Bollywood and perform there,” Dr Mohindra laughs. With close ties to the Indian film industry, including a brother who directs movies, she’s well placed to give her students the connections they need.

Dr Mohindra is still very much in the industry herself, regularly travelling to India to choreograph dance numbers for movies and video clips – often raunchy and fast paced, these scenes are very different than they used to be, according to Dr Mohindra. “Back then it was just the India classical music, folk music, dances,” she says. Now it’s a mish-mash of hip-hop, jazz, salsa and numerous other styles. “The young generation is very keen, and they’re influenced by Western countries,” Dr Mohindra explains.

Still, the best place to see Dr Mohindra’s performances in real life is Australia. Most recently her students wowed the audience performing a tribute to Madhuri Dixit at the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin GYAAN Awards in February.

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