Ballantyne Magazine

SPRING 2019

Ballantyne Magazine covers news, events, real estate, restaurants, shopping, health, schools and business in the upscale Ballantyne Area of Charlotte, NC.

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Mukherjee began to teach Indian dance in California, a fun side project for a scientist at the start of her career. But dance became more serious than science. Career plans changed. "Life is not always as it is planned," Mukherjee says. "My profession chose me. I did not choose it." After moving to Charlotte in 2001 with her husband's new job, Mukherjee opened Nrityangan Cultural Academy in Matthews. Pronounced NRIT-yan-ghan, Nrityangan means "dance" (nritya) and "porch" (angan) in Hindi. Together, they refer to "a porch where dance is taught," says Mukherjee. The academy became the first Indian dance studio in the Charlotte area teaching both modern Bollywood and Kathak, a form of Indian classical dance. She had three students that first year. As small children, Mukherjee's twin daughters Adreeja and Ahana weren't as excited about Indian dance as their mom was. They just wanted to fit in — they didn't want to be the Indian kids in their school, but just regular kids. Studying Kathak made them feel different. How much has changed. Today Mukherjee teaches nearly 250 students, most of whom live in Ballantyne, in a studio on Carmel Road that she purchased in 2012. It's now one of several Indian dance studios in the area keeping up with students' interest. Two of Mukherjee's most enthusiastic students are her daughters, now eighth graders at Weddington Middle School. Over the seven years they've danced at the studio, they've evolved into serious students of Kathak. As they've grown, Adreeja and Ahana have learned a lesson that eludes many people twice their age: the beauty of difference. Different doesn't mean bad; different means special. Through trips to India to visit their grandparents, they've fallen in love with the country and culture. Through years of Kathak dance, they've brought a bit of it home to south Charlotte. History, Calm "When I'm doing this, I'm reliving the history that it comes from," Adreeja says. "When you dance Kathak, you calm down. You return to the place where you came from." As Adreeja and Ahana talk about Kathak, their eyes widen, their hands punctuate their sentences, and they smile. Big. They reveal details of a dance they'll perform as part of the academy's big May performance — no spoilers here, however — and talk about the costumes they'll wear that will be hand-sewn in India. And to their side is their mom, listening with a grin. India feels a little closer these days. Like Adreeja and Ahana, Roshni Roshni Thematur (center) poses with other Kathak dance students at last year's Nrityangan Cultural Academy performance. Courtesy of Shweta Ahuja BALLANTYNE SPRING 2019 41 Feature

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