An interview with Parvyn Kaur Singh

In the first of our “Get To Know Our Teachers” series, we interview the multi-talented Parvyn. An accomplished singer and dancer, Parvyn has a thriving career in multiple projects including fronting the cult band The Bombay Royale. She’s also mother to one year old Ravi. We speak with Parvyn about motherhood, juggling family and career, and her plans for teaching next year.

1. When and how did you start dancing?

When I was about 5 (over 25 years ago in Adelaide) my mum organised for my sisters and a few other children to start weekly Bharatanatyam classes. She recognised the importance for us to learn Indian classical dance as part of our cultural education in an environment that was otherwise predominantly influenced by western culture. I later traveled to Singapore and then India to study Kathak dance after finishing high school. Throughout that time my sisters and I also did Bhangra and Bollywood dancing regularly at festivals, weddings and other cultural events.

2. After 25 years, what inspires you to keep on dancing?

The beauty and stillness I feel when I’m dancing. I like the feeling of getting lost in, or rather, completely focusing my mind and body when I dance. I guess it’s a type of yoga for me in that way. Also my guruji, through her kindness and the knowledge she has shared with me, inspires me to pass it on and perform it to the best of my ability.

3. What was your most challenging dance routine? Do you have a favourite?

There is a panchpali (five speed classical piece) that my guruji taught me over a few trips to India that took me quite a while to get to a performance standard. It involves a series of movements and footwork that increases speed incrementally, ending in a blistering pace with some very fast chakars (spins). One of the main things to get right is the precise speed increase for each round as it is evenly metered to the original pace. I love the more technical aspects of Kathak dancing and the theory involved in breaking down and playing with the rhythmic patterns (taals).

My favourite routine at the moment is a choreography that I did to Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ for my Semi Classical Kathak class at Studio J. I’m very much enjoying taking the classical knowledge I have and creating choreography to contemporary music.

4. You’re also mother to 1 year old, Ravi. As a dancer, singer and teacher, how have you juggled motherhood and your artistic career? Has becoming a mum affected how you approach your work?

Sometimes I feel like Ravi is now my “work” and my career is my hobby! Having a baby made me take time off touring and performing, yet it forced me to hone in on what I want to be doing more of creatively. There are only a few, if any, hours in a day where Ravi is not my focus. So I have had to be more selective about what I take on. I’m finding when I get time off from him, because it’s so precious, I get more quality work done. Frustrating moments arise when I have to work from home. Writing one email can take a long time when Ravi’s pulling on my skirts but I’m learning to prioritise, and generally it’s the work that has to wait.

My husband and I are both creatives with flexibility in our schedules. We support each other and allow time for one another to pursue our art. Having a solid home base has meant that I can hold regular classes, like at Studio J, which itself has helped develop my creativity and choreography skills. Having a dedicated group of students wanting to learn my style of dance is very encouraging and their interest has sparked a renewed energy for dance in me.

5. If you could go back in time, what advice or lessons learned would you give your “younger self”?

Quite a few actually! 🙂

Make good use of the freedom, time and energy you have at a younger age. It is your opportunity to develop your art without the responsibilities of family and working life.

Even if you have a passion for something and enjoy doing it, it’s not always easy and does require hard work.

Let practise and improvement be a satisfying outcome in itself. Don’t let other people’s comments or criticism get you down and disheartened or compare yourself to other people’s progress and skill.

6. Do you have a favourite dancer? Who?

Sanjukta Sinha is one of my favourite Kathak dancers. I have been lucky enough to spend some time learning from her at Kadamb Dance Academy in Ahmedabad. My favourite Bollywood dancers are Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai.

7. Do you have favourite personal quotes?

‘A dancer sings within, a singer dances within’ is something my guruji Sandhya Desai said once that resonated with me.

‘Dance in stillness’ is another one which I try to live by. I’ve extended this broader to be ‘live in stillness’.

8. What are your plans for Kathak at Studio J next year?

My students this year have been fantastic and are really starting to getting a good grasp of Kathak. I try and intersperse as much technique and classical Kathak as I can throughout the terms because it means that I can be more adventurous with my choreography. I would love to do some more classic Bollywood tunes that incorporate classical elements like Kaahe Chhed Mohe from Devdas. It’s actually a bit more complicated than most people might realise because it is in a 12 beat (Ektaal) rhythmic cycle. So far we’ve covered a 16 beat cycle (Tintaal) and a bit of 6 beat (Dhadra) cycle, so we’ll have to work towards it.

Parvyn will be teaching Kathak Semi-Classical on Wednesday 7.15pm (Intermediate), Thursday 6pm (Beginner) and Saturday 1pm (Open Level). For all queries and enrolments for next term, please contact Studio J.

Parvyn with The Bombay Royale in their latest hit single “Love You Love You”:

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