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India has a very old tradition of dances and these have fertilised and affected belly dance and tribal. But how is it the other way round? Belly dance doesn’t seem to stand on its own feet on the subcontinent has to crawl a long way yet. We are glad to have met the most important spearhead of belly dance in India, Payal Gupta from the South Indian city of Bangalore. She seems to aim to spread belly dance all over the subcontinent


Interview with
Payal Gupta

- by Marcel Bieger

You have an interesting last name, are you in any way kindred to the old rulers of India?

Yes, I belong to the clan that are the descendants of the great ruler “Chandra Gupta Maurya”, therefore the second name “Gupta”. Also my first name 'payal' means anklet- which is worn around the ankle usually made of silver or gold. They make sound while you walk and hence is also used for dance.

She always encouraged me to stay a step ahead. She therefore urged me to look for belly dance teachers in my city, who was extremely rare then, but after 3 years there was a local dancer, who knew a little bit about belly dance, hence I started learning from her but that wasn’t enough for me.
I looked for other teachers to learn from and that’s how it all began.
What kind of belly dance do you perform, which styles do you prefer, what other dance trainings do you have, and do you every once in a while or on a regular basis mix belly dance with these other genres. 

In India, people have very little knowledge about belly dance therefore i conduct gala shows annually, where I showcase the different styles and the versatility of belly dance. Therefore until now, in 4 such galas I have showcased belly dance with bollywood, bellynesian (Tahitian), samba, saidi, tribal fusion, sword balancing, live drum solos, dance of the 7 veils, finger cymbals, classical egyptian raqs sharqi.

But personally my favourite is classical and drum solos. I am trained in kathak, bollywood freestyle, jive and modern contemporary.

As far as fraternization goes, yes there is a certain amount of it, but since there are very, very few belly dancers in the country there is hardly any yet. But the rate at which the people are taking to this form, I can see that happening very soon. Indian belly dance since is at a very early stage, any achievement made at this stage will be new and at a small level. Even so, I hold a record in the 'INDIAN BOOK OF RECORDS' for belly dancing while balancing a cane on the head for 3 minutes.

I have conducted the first and the biggest belly dance flash mob in India in May 2012, on world belly dance day, with 85 belly dance students including me and my troupe.

We conduct the biggest belly dance festival in India (mentioned in detail in the next question). We have taken part in reality TV shows telecasted on TV,
showcasing belly dance.
Please enlighten us about your annual belly dance festival
in India

Our festival is the first belly dance festival that is conducted in India and by far the biggest. It’s called HIPNOSIS but every year there is a theme to it. The latest on was on 14th October 2012, the theme was "the Shimmy Travelogue". We had conducted workshops for the general public and we had a small bazaar with some belly dance merchandise and 2 gala shows, where we showcased the variety in belly dance with other styles of dance around the world. There were 100 students from the academy (Payal’s dance studio) that were trained by me and my troupe of instructors for over 5 months, and they performed a particular style of belly dance. Even my troupe performed 7 out of 15 dances. The dances we did are like i mentioned before, modern belly dance, bellywood (bollywood with belly dance), bellynesian, belly samba, drum solo, finger cymbals, saidi,
sword balancing, dance of the 7 veils, classical Egyptian belly dance etc.
and me too performed with my troupe with an additional veil poi
displaying with a drum solo.

Please make us familiar with your group/troupe
"Isadora's Muse".

 “Isadora's Muse” is a 5 member troupe including me. All the members in the troupe are trained by me in various styles of belly dance and they are also instructors in my academy. We perform together for events in our city and other cities in India. All the girls in the troupe are in the age group of 20 to 25. The members for the troupe are selected mostly among my students based on their performance and ability in the academy, or sometimes even students from other belly dance academies.


Payal Gupta on facebook
Payal's Dance Academy
on facebook
Photos © Magicshotz, Konstanze Winkler, others with kindly permission of Payal Gupta
Payal Gupta
Payal's group "Isadora's Muse"
Payal Gupta
Dancers of "Isadora's Muse"
Payal's Ensemble at the first and biggest Indian Bellydance-Festival "Hipnosis"
"Isadora's Muse" with "Belly Samba" at Payal's Festival "Hipnosis"
right and below:
Payal Gupta (second on the left)
with her ensemble "Isadora's Muse"
Payal's performance at the Oriental Festival Europe,
Leyla Jouvana and Roland, Duisburg
How did belly dance find you and what made you
stay with it?

 About 8 years back my mother was watching a belly dance on Indian television, and she fell in love with it. My mother is the kind of person, who always wants to do things differently. When everyone did classical Indian dance, I did western dance (means ballet, modern, contemporary), when everyone did western dance, I did belly dance.

What is the situation of belly dance in India? Is there any fraternisation, sororitization (if this term exists), cooperation or contact between belly dance and the rich Indian dance traditions? And how much of its achievements does India’s belly dance owe to Payal Gupta?
Belly dance in India is very, very new, just about 5 or 6 years old, it is still at the grass root level. This is because Indians are known to be very orthodox in mentality, therefore the fact that belly dance is usually danced in clubs and restaurants in various countries with revealing costumes, is not taken very well by the people. Hence there is still some kind of hesitation before a student decides to learn this form, mostly from their parents. But from what I have seen since I started teaching is that belly dance is made hugely popular by singer Shakira, who has a lot of followers here (although she hardly does any belly dance), so the young generation is excited that they are getting a chance to learn that.

Therefore I summarise: there is immense scope in our country, but it will take time to change the thinking, and it is changing even now, I have taken that as my aim to really show the people this art form and get it to be respected like any other form.
This festival is not international yet, but we are working towards making it so. Hence the festival in 2013 or 2014 will be with international belly dance stars and workshops over a period of 3 or 4 days.
Once they are selected, they have to take an intense training course from me after which I decide whether they are suitable for teaching or performing or both.
Tell us something about your future plans, was your performance at Leyla's your first time on a German stage, and when will we see you again?

My plans for the future are to make belly dance as wide spread in India as possible, because belly dance has so much to offer but the people have very little knowledge about it.  I want to introduce the amazing belly dance teachers all over the world to the Indian market and give belly dance its dues in India. Yes my performance at Leyla’s was my first time on a German stage. I will see you again next year at Leyla's festival.