Reshmi Chetram is an award-winning exponent of Kathak & Indian Dance in North America whose work has received global, media, and local praise. Having trained 600+ aspiring dance artists in her career, Reshmi is recognized as an industry go-to for indo-dance studies of all stages. Reshmi has received recognition for her development of artists through her signature methods of teaching that include an approach that is mindful, rooted, explorative, challenging, and individual to each of her students. With her years of experience & training along with her mindful approach, Reshmi is on a mission to create meaningful connections between the mind, body & artistic voices through dance education & mentorship.
As seen: Times of India, Channel Canada, Luminato Festival, Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, CHCH TV
1) How does dance help you with your body-confidence?
Ever since I was young, I have had a relationship with dance. As I grew and evolved as a woman – the constant has been my relationship to dance.
The beautiful thing about an impulsive soul reaction is that it has nothing to do with what we look like, and has everything to do with what we feel. Over the years I have experienced different opinions on what my relationship with dance should look like. Younger years, “You should put on some weight.” Teen years “Oh you’re hips are a bit wide, you have a thin upper body, very good.” Postpartum “Oh good for you you’ve decided to keep the baby weight.”
I reached a stage in my late 20’s when I knew I had to block voices out because dance is my space, it always has been. It’s the place where my roots are planted, and where I flourish and fall with the seasons. Dance is my safe space and I decided to start holding space for students of all ages, sizes, and soul journeys to do the same. When students come to me, I do not assess their physical ability but more so I learn more about where they are in their lives and psychologically so that I can support their journey and help them build their own relationships with their movement and dance.
2) How have you been able to manage your career after marriage and having a kid?
I look for the magic in the mundane.
Keeping up with my career post marriage and motherhood, it has its days. Days of exhaustion, days of inspiration, days of productivity, days – off. There are things I know I want to accomplish in my life, motherhood, marriage is some of them, and the other things I’ve wished to accomplish in my life will come in phases. Motherhood and especially early years are going to be a different type of experience than when my son is 15 years old, with his friends, and interests, and hobbies. Now as a 1-year-old, I am leaning into this time with him, because it’s not just a day to day list of things to do, it’s nourishing his soul, my soul and what we experience now is what will be there to express, to feel, to release, to be grateful for in my older days when I look back, something that will ultimately come out in my art. Thinking as this keeps me connected to the reality of time, that this is my time, these are the things I have wished for and I have them. This is also how I feel about my body, in the last 4 years, my body has gone through so much. Pain, pain medication, pelvic floor damage I’ve been in the emergency room 13 times one summer, I’ve lost weight, gained it, had a baby, I’ve received a Celiac Disease diagnosis, still have the post-partum weight that I am carrying. I told myself, after my diagnosis to give my body a break.
Someone’s opinion of what I look like does not change the outcome of what I can do as a person unless I let what they’ve said penetrate my energy. I’ve learned that sometimes, people show up to offload their thoughts, feelings, opinions and then they move on with their days. Their intention wasn’t to harm you or stress you out. We all function at different frequencies, something that is very important to you, is just a passing thought for others. Don’t pick up what they’ve left behind with you. Lastly, functioning as an entrepreneur & dancer in marriage and motherhood, – looks very different then what it was, before this phase of life, it’s not so neat, it’s not so quiet, it’s not so set in a schedule. It’s a little wild, and it can work. It does not have to look a certain way. To be a dancer you do not need to be in a studio with hardwood flooring, spotlights, and a black curtain, you can be in your sweatpants, with your child on the floor, hair all over, music on full, pasta on the stove moving in your kitchen. It’s the soul of the connection to what you love that is yours and only yours and is all that matters.
3) How do you think brown women can maintain their culture and their roots through the arts?
My work is all about rooting in traditions and inspiring innovation. I think we are living in a time where we are privileged to have access to archives, teachers and so much ancient knowledge. The important space here is between what happened and what’s going to happen with the arts. Giving the next generation the tools they need, but also space and freedom to express will and can inspire action in young artistic minds. Many times dancers and artists are expected to create certain work or to be a duplicate of their gurus, where the main focus should be on equipping them with the tools needed to continue the lineage with their inspired and artist voices.
4) Many women are shy to dance because there is a myth that dancers are supposed to be a certain size or age. What are your thoughts about that?
When the focus can be shifted from how something looks to how it feels, the dancer can mentally shift to a space of freedom when dancing. This is a goal that I have with my students, how to have them detach from the audience’s opinion of what they look like, but intern impact the audiences heart-center with their raw, authentic ability to express their truth. Size has nothing to do with emotion, size has nothing to do with strength and size has nothing to do with creativity. I think there needs to be more conversations in dance classes itself, in the write-ups of dance schools, sharing their beliefs and values on self-expression, identity, and inclusion. Part of my classes include conversation, it’s weaved all the way through the lesson, and from different viewpoints to help dancers connect to what serves them.
5) Dancing for passion is one thing and building a reputable brand like yours is another thing. What are your secrets to building your brand and career?
I always say, that when a passion becomes a purpose, your dreams become goals, and very quickly something that seemed so far away is all of a sudden right in the palm of your hand.
Staying connected to the source of my service, reminding myself that there are no two artists the same, and while I may not be for everybody, the reminder that this voice and vision is definitely for many who need this space and service has allowed me to cultivate a community that is inspired, shifting & growing.
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Interviewed by Sumu Sathi
Edited by Sharmila Sivasankaran
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