Celebrating Australian diversity through dance

At just 16, Arundhati Banerjee is an artreprenuer and founder member of AIDA-Bharatanatyaved, a dance academy in Seacliff, South Australia, imparting training in Indian classical, contemporary and folk forms. This Adelaide-based dancer moved to Australia just four years ago but has successfully managed to take her passion forward and get recognised at that. She will now be representing South Australia as a national finalist in Miss Diamond Australia 2019. The young dancer is also working for her charity organisation e.motions21. As a part of her pageantry journey, Arundhati supports the institution e. motions 21, a non-profit organisation that provides an Australian-first, evidence based, innovative dance and fitness programs for children and young adults with Down syndrome. She identified e.motions21 as an organisation for her charity purposes given that she is passionate about performing arts and how dance can make a difference, bring joy and happiness irrespective of age, gender and levels of abilities. Her mantra is “Dance is for Everybody, integration of mind, body and soul”. Although trained in the Indian classical dance form Bharatanatyam, Arundhati is currently receiving her training in western forms of dance such as ballet, hip-hop, jazz, tap and contemporary and has completed National level certifications in dance. She is receiving specialised training in the areas of: art of emotions, the ancient text in dramaturgy and the playing of an instrument – cymbal popular called “nattuvangam” in India and is part of the Youth Ensemble team in the pre-eminent contemporary dance theatre Australian Dance Theatre. Arundhati has been with the Australian Girls’ Choir and had the honour of performing at the Adelaide Oval for a test match between Australia and England, Sound of Voices, Governor’s House-Tasmania. She has choreographed and trained dancers for diverse events in Adelaide and interstate and won laurels that included festivals, competitions and multicultural events. In a conversation with the Indian Weekly, Arundhati opens up about her passion. What is the Miss Diamond Australia pageant about? Miss & MR Diamond Australia 2019 is a pageant with a difference, which believes in creating community heroes, an inclusive culture and celebrates diversity; it aligns with my vision and belief. It is an honour and privilege to represent South Australia in the National Finals in Brisbane on the 12th and 13th of April. I have been preparing since my selection for the pageant in 2018. The first step was choosing a charity organisation that aligned with my purpose which was e.motion.21 in Melbourne. The next step was spreading the awareness and raising funds for my chosen charity. I raised funds and created awareness through several mediums such as social media, advertisement campaigns and a debut production in Fringe 2019 Dancing Sutra. As part of the pageant, I also had the opportunity to interact with community heroes, personalities and not-for-profit organisations and participate in community service. What attracted you to Bharatnatyam? Do you do fusion as well? My fundamental genre of dance is Bharatanatyam and I learnt it under the tutelage of the renowned Padmashree and National Award-Winning actress Shobana Chandrakumar in India. I am still pursuing this art form through advance courses of Abhinaya (art of emotions), Natyashastra (the text of dramaturgy) and Nattuvangam (popularly known as cymbals). I started learning Bharatanatyam at the age of five as a hobby but then I fell in love with the dance form and it became my passion. I believe that art is about creativity, innovation and to make it more accessible to next generation of art lovers, fusion is one such medium. My vision is to collaborate with artists across the world and create a universal art form, thus celebrating diversity and inclusion. An artist, choreographer, model and an artreprenuer, you are loaded with talents? Dance started as a hobby, but in my growing years I realised that dance truly is an integration of mind, body and soul, where I found my passion and meaning to life. I founded AIDA-Bharatanatyaved, the performing arts academy along with my parents at Adelaide with a vision to create a genre of performing arts that integrates with the global community and imbibes the multiculturalism that Australia is all about. I wish to be recognised as a performing artist, a social artreprenuer, and not just limiting myself to dance alone. You moved to Adelaide four years ago? What was life in India like? I am 16 years old and a Year 11 student at Brighton Secondary School in Adelaide. My early childhood was in India where I grew with my grandparents, friends and family. I grew up in a social structure that fostered the essence of love, togetherness and fond memories. Diversity has been key in my upbringing as I am half South Indian and half Bengali, thus am able to adapt, embrace differences – be it ethnicity, culture or any other. This has helped me in integrating with the unique but diverse culture that Australia has to offer. My parents decided to migrate to Australia to help me realise my dreams and I am thankful for all the opportunities that have come my way and the immense learning I have received since my moving into the country. Any obstacles you have faced in your dance journey as a migrant in Australia? I have performed in several festivals and events in Australia and have been applauded and encouraged equally just like any other Australian. My talent has been recognised irrespective of my ethnicity and country of origin and have not come across any obstacles as yet. As an Indian artist in Australia, how do you see the future of classical Indian dance? I see that Indian classical art form has a great potential in Australia as the audience are receptive and willing to embrace the vibrancy, colour, joy, soulfulness and lifestyle elements it brings with it. What are some of the accolades you have received in the field of performing arts in Australia? In a short duration of just over four years, I have received several accolades such as the Overall Winner of the KAR Dance Competition in the 15-19 years age group (2018) and have been invited to Hollywood. I am also winner of the title Miss Glamourgenic-Supreme Title (2018), winner of the Talent round Miss & Mr Diamond Australia 2019. I have been selected as the Semi-Finalist – Young Achiever Award 2019 (Seven News-SA) and member of the International Dance Council, partnered with UNESCO (2019). Recently I have been selected as a Youth Parliamentarian-SA (2019). Other awards include Pageant Planet- People Choice Award 2019, Miss & Mr Diamond Australia 2019 (Social Media People Choice Award).