- What inspired you to start Etram?
Initially, I was running a few independent dance classes with Tisha Dance Academy and that is where I happened to meet Vandana Menon. She was initially my student and helped me with a lot of things concerning the music, concepts and operations. We later ended up creating a dance drama that became a huge hit in the Ganesha festival. The publicity from that and a few other similar performances encouraged us to make something more concrete and structured and to try creating concepts on a full-time basis. The appreciation we got for our work, concepts and music was mainly what motivated us to form Etram.
- What have been your biggest challenges? How have you overcome them?
I think that a lot of people in the field of arts might relate to what I’m about to say, especially those who want to pursue a career in this field. At the very least, I hope it will be useful to them. When we started out, I was an IT professional and my partner was a marketing professional. So when we thought of considering working towards Etram full time, it goes without saying that finances were our very first worry. Second, because of the uncertainty of the field, we were a bit indecisive and did not have a very clear vision as to where we were headed.
So to list out our challenges:
- Because neither Vandana nor I come from a professional dancing background (in terms of dance knowledge as well as administrative knowledge of a dance school), we had trouble figuring out the right and wrong at every step. It was also hard to establish a structure, especially because it’s not organized anywhere in the field. Artists are either taken for granted or the fees are high, which makes it harder for more people to join.
- Lack of knowledge in dance and administration was one of our major challenges. We learned that until we knew how to dance professionally or create a structure, there would be no way we could teach others to do the same. We learnt from things we had picked up here and there and taught from that limited pool of knowledge, which was not enough. So the only options we were left with were either to stop working on Etram or learn and get better at things we didn’t know. Therefore, I decided to do a diploma course; this course became a turning point for Etram as I had a lot to learn out there with respect to dance as well as structure.
- We also struggled with finding good dancers to work with us and teach full time, again, because of the lack of structure, which then didn’t bring any income to us or the dancers.
- After a little while, another challenge we faced was that, we also didn’t really know how to guide and help the dancers who worked with us as we didn’t have enough knowledge ourselves. Learning dance professionally through a company taught us the different types of skills required, what it meant to manage and operate a company, and how we needed to have better composition for a better workflow.
- What are your current projects?
Our aim is to create a company (or space) where everyone has artistic freedom and can also gain financial independence and a stable career as an artist and spread art in an authentic and honest way while keeping its undefined value.
Over the last year and a half, our plans have changed multiple times, depending on the situation in the country. However, there are two projects that we are really excited to be working towards. As a company we focus on two aspects – one is the performance creative part where the focus is the artist and second is dance education.
We have two productions planned for the performance project. One, already in the works, is a Bharatnatyam production based on a common concept that will be showcased in a contemporary manner. The second is going to be a production that is based on a historic event that has deep teachings; this will be done using a lot of folklore and travel instrumental music. It is going to be performed by 20 dancers on stage.
For dance education, we are launching an 8-month course (from June 2021 to January 2022), providing training in multiple forms and a dance certificate. It will consist of intense training with regular workout in yoga, martial arts and introduction to various forms of art like theatre, ballet, jazz, garba, bhangra and a few more different forms. We believe that the course will make a difference in the dance industry and to dance education
One very important project that we are also going to be focusing on is ‘Changing Hearts’. We initially started this to raise funds through art for social causes. The first two events by Etram have been really successful, for which we are very grateful. We would like to continue this for a very long time. Etram is also proud to provide employment to five different dancers for a year now and everyone has received help in one way or another. This is something the team is very proud of and thankful for.