Elizabeth Pereira Pandit – Dance Studio and The Huddle
“I don’t just dance, I perform. I breathe.
I watch the world disappear, I release my feelings,
I lead with my heart, I tear down my walls,
I lose the pain, I let go, I smile.
No, I don;t just dance, I do so much more.”
I am sure everyone out there with a set of happy feet will relate to this and to Elizabeth. Dance helped her come out of grief. Dance helped her reach out, extend, grow and help grow. Read on… to know more about this young girl with a tap in her feet and smile on her lips and love to share.
1. Tell us your story, Elizabeth. Dance as a passion, as a hobby, as a career option.
My name is Elizabeth Pereira Pandit and I am 36 years old. I grew up in a cosmopolitan household what with my father being a Roman Catholic from Goa and my mother, a Hindu Malayali from Kerala. My brother and I have been born and brought up in Mumbai and our life has been one full of travel as my father was a Marine Engineer.
From the time I was a little girl, I was totally inclined towards music and dance. My family (both mother and father’s side) everyone loves to sing and dance ! As Catholics, I think dancing runs in our blood and my mother used to dance as a child herself, so I guess dance was ingrained in me from childhood.
My mother put me for the Bharatanatyam class when I was just four and a half years old and that was literally where my training started. To date I believe that my dance teacher Guru Smt. Nalini Raghu is probably the best in the world. Learning Bharatanatyam under her guidance has been the best for me and that has shaped me to be the person I am, the discipline, the way we hold ourselves as dancers, is what I have learnt from my teacher. At the tender age of 9, I completed my Arangetram and was invited all over India to perform. By the time I was in my 8th standard I was already choreographing in my school for various functions and I met my then guru and now my business partner, Darren Das during one such function. He trained me in different styles such as contemporary and jazz and by the time I completed my 10th standard I was already an instructor with him. Over the years, I have been studying, teaching dance and doing shows. After marriage too, nothing thankfully changed as my husband and my in-laws are very supporting and backed me all the way.
2. Tell me that incident that was your defining moment, that moment when your head and heart both went, “This is it?” This is what I want to do…
When I started doing these professional shows all over India as well as abroad I realised that this is something that I love doing and to top it I am getting paid for it. I don’t think there’s anything better than this. I realised the joy that I received and felt while teaching or while performing can compare to nothing else. I feel like I’m a totally different person when I am on stage. I feel I belong!
My mother however was also very particular about my academics. Dance was not going to be just about fun. She always told me “If you want to Dance , you have to study”, so I danced and studied.
3. Tell me what does this mean to you? How do you want to be remembered?
For many people dance is just a hobby or something enjoyable at a party but for me, dance is everything. I eat, breath and live dance.
I dont think I know anything else other than dance! Dance means the world to me. I would like to be remembered as a positive and happy person who touched several hearts and transformed lives of students while teaching them to love themselves and just dance.
4. Tell me about your life. A difficult moment or a trying time when you think Dance was what helped you get through.
The most difficult moment of my life is probably when my father passed away when I was in my 10th standard. That’s when I started learning with Darren Das. Eventually it was dance that helped me get over this difficult phase of life. It made me independent as I started being self-sufficient at a very young age. It helped me build my personality, thought-process and defined how I wanted to see myself in the future.
5. Tell us about your son. Does he like dancing?
This is probably my most favourite topic – my daughter “Fuzzy” (the cutest little shih tzu ever) and my son “ Shlok”. Fuzzy is a year older to Shlok and has been a totally doting sister. She took care of Shlok, when he was born and is totally protective of him. I danced when I was pregnant. Shlok is a dancing baby – we dance a lot. In fact, I started a batch at my studio for his age group which is only two and a half years old. It’s a lot of fun dancing because it makes me so happy to know that he enjoys it. Even in his Play School he had performed on stage and we were all blown away.
6. Did you face any prejudice when it came to teaching boys? Is the society more open to the idea of dancing for boys when you started?
Thanks to all the reality dance shows; I don’t think we face much of a prejudice now when it comes to teaching boys. Society has become a lot more aware about dance as a profession and they are not that against it. However, I am talking with experience of having lived and worked in a cosmopolitan city. Having said, this the ratio of boys versus girls is still pretty low. If there are 15 students in class there will be at least 10 girls and maybe for a 5 boys.
7. What is your take on Self Affirmation? Do you think it is underrated? Do you think it is quintessential for success?
Assuring yourself know that you are doing something that is making a difference in someone’s life and that you are trying to bring a change, however small, makes a big difference. When you are happy doing what you do, only then can you spread joy and happiness to others. I believe that really successful people are those who enjoy what they do. Success for me is very subjective, being happy at the moment, in the moment, for the moment is most important.
8. What is your Soul Workout?
Last year I did my course in dance and movement therapy from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences which is affiliated with the Kolkata’s Sanved. Currently I am a dance movement therapy practitioner. I do several workshops which especially focus on senior citizens. I have done workshops for teachers from schools, so that they can use this concept while dealing with children, women rescued from trafficking, children with special needs etc. I use the beautiful concepts of mind and body movements while I teach.
The most beautiful thing has been incorporating and combining my knowledge of dance movement therapy as well as my knowledge of teaching dance over the several years. The most important thing is seeing someone’s life transform through dance. Seeing a change in their personality, being happy and enjoying every moment – that I believe works my soul.
9. What’s your Mantra, Elizabeth?
“Dance, even if you have no music or place to move.”
When people ask me what i do for a living, I say, I DANCE !!!