Years of legwork results in Queen’s Service Medal for dancer

Natraj School of Dance owner Prabha Ravi, left, received a Queen's Service Medal for her contribution to the ethnic and ...
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Natraj School of Dance owner Prabha Ravi, left, received a Queen's Service Medal for her contribution to the ethnic and dance communities.

"Dancing is divine," says a Lower Hutt dance teacher who was recognised during the 2017 Queen's Birthday Honours.

Natraj School of Dance owner Prabha Ravi was awarded a Queen's Service Medal for services to the ethnic and dance communities.

She teaches Bharatanatyam, an intensive course in classical Indian dance, which she began learning at three and teaching at 18.

Ravi's hope is to establish Bharatanatyam as a recognised form of dance in New Zealand.
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Ravi's hope is to establish Bharatanatyam as a recognised form of dance in New Zealand.

"Apart from physical fitness, it's about body and soul and mind, it's for all three, it connects all three beautifully," she says.

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"Physically you're fit and mentally you're active because you need to understand the culture, you need to know the background … when you get involved in your dance it makes you feel so good, you forget about yourself."

Ravi is humbled by her award, but says it belongs to the whole dance community and was a collective effort.
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Ravi is humbled by her award, but says it belongs to the whole dance community and was a collective effort.

Ravi is passionate about Bharatanatyam and believes it is important to keep this specialised art form alive.

"That was my motivation actually, passing it on to the next generation and also creating an awareness in New Zealand.

"I thought the knowledge of Bharatanatyam was very limited. It's important for us to showcase the art form, which is more than a thousand years old."

As a member of Dance Aotearoa New Zealand, Ravi also works to promote different types of dance throughout New Zealand.

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"I'm really keen to do a huge sort of workshop across the country at some stage, depending on the funding, to showcase Bharatanatyam to the smaller regions … where people don't get to see this rich art form."

Ravi formed the Natraj School of Dance three weeks after immigrating from India in 1999.

"When I saw Indians in the supermarkets or in my children's kindergarten I used to  tell them that I teach dance; if you would like your daughter to learn Bharatanatyam please come and enrol her … literally by word of mouth I told them that I'm very happy to teach dance, I would love to keep this alive."

Ravi is "very grateful" and "humbled" to receive the award, but says it belongs to the whole dance community.

"It's not my single effort, obviously, it can't just be one person. It's so much support from the community, so much trust and love and belief and passion for the art form from everyone that this was possible."

However, it has not always been easy, she says. "[My husband] and children, the amount of sacrifices that they have done in their lives to get me to do what I'm doing. I've hardly seen my children play cricket or netball on a Saturday … I missed out on a lot of my children's wonderful achievements."

Ravi hopes Bharatanatyam will be established as a recognised form of dance in New Zealand.

Natraj School of Dance holds its annual show on July 15, at 6.30pm. Tickets from natrajschoolofdance@gmail.com.

 - Stuff

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