Published: 31st October 2018
On The Floor: Why all contemporary dance lovers must check out this Kochi dance school
The founder of the game-changing dancing studio, The Floor, talks about changing the way contemporary dance is taught
When Arunima Gupta, a dancer who had freshly moved to Kochi from Kolkata met Maria Roy, who was trained in Broadway dancing from the United States, they reached a clear understanding of what the art of dance meant to them. In 2013, they established The Floor in Kochi, a dance studio and training center that would be unlike any other. "We had just met and realised that our passions were the same and that we wanted to do something more. That's how the studio came into being," says Arunima.
Recently, after Maria moved to New Zealand, Arunima runs the organisation with the help of her friend and actor, Govind Krishna. At the crux of their vision for the world of dance was changing the way it was taught. She explains, "We wanted to give very guided and technique-based dance lessons. In our country, there's a lot of untechnical dancing going around. Especially when it comes to contemporary dance, no one is really educated in it. Our vision was to have a contemporary dance school with modern influences."
If you pass by the halls of The Floor, contemporary dance routines will be the first to capture your eye. Arunima reveals that she and Maria had a certain idea of what their style of dance was. She says, "There is a lot of debate going on about what contemporary dance is. I feel like it is a designer label of your own dance. As a dancer, I have learnt various types of dances and I have blended elements of each of them to make my own unique style of dance."
Dance Revelation: The Floor holds an annual dance festival called the Dance Affair where they get different mentors from all over the country to teach students through a residency programme during which students create something and perform it
The first concept they wanted to bring to the dance classrooms of Kochi was technique. Once they got the ball rolling, they had other modern dances introduced like hip-hop and other styles. Soon after this, they introduced their first pre-ballet classes for children. Arunima says, "We are not ballerinas but as contemporary dancers, we are all educated on what is basic of ballet. The concept was to train children from a very young age so they could have the right postures, grace and techniques in their body. This is just to prepare the foundation of the body." The classes are still held for children as young as four. And as they grow up, they are trained in contemporary dance.
As the child grows up, they can choose the genre of dance that they identify with. With the way the courses are structured at The Floor, they don't give out any certification as of yet. After class 12, many students have opted to go abroad and chosen dance as their major subject for their graduation.
Arunima goes on to speak about the vision that started it all. "Our first dream was to teach children properly with a proper methodology. So it's not a one year course or a 3 month one, we feel that learning keeps on going. As long as you are in school , you also advance in the world of dance. We bring in different aspects and workshops and expose students to different artists from all over the world."
She goes on, "The second part of our dream was to give students an artistic mode of life. So whatever we have or do, we try to keep it at a very intellectual level. We don't do much of Bollywood or this idea of just a song and a dance. Because for us, this is not just a physical sense of learning that students get from us. It is a very emotional and intellectual way of learning as well. This is very important to me when I train them."
Many of their students have gone on to become dance instructors themselves and establish dance academies of their own. Arunima's face swells with pride as she recollects the names of students who have gone on to become actors, choreographers for major films and many who have gone abroad to perfect their skills. Five years in, it is clear that the vision behind The Floor has not only seen the light of day, it sways through a new era in the shape of an army of dancers.