It was only in the palaces of Kings, a danseuse performed. The word dance was restricted to those women who danced in the darbars for pure entertainment. And there came a time when such thoughts were dismissed, when dance was beginning to receive its due respect and high admiration. A revolution of this kind was fought by many women until they were respected for learning this art form. Rekha Hegde is one such danseuse who has dedicated her entire life to dance. At the early age of four she performed Bharatnatyam at St German School in Belgaum. Her performance was such that the school Principal presented her a big cup saying he was mesmerized by her talent.

Her journey as a danseuse began from this one performance. Little did Rekha know that one day she would bag awards and accolades as a danseuse. In 1989, she along with her sister (Roopa Hegde) set up a dance school in Belgaum –Shantala Natyalaya which was inaugurated by her Guru Ullal Mohankumar(from Mangalore).

”When parents came for admission, they enquired who will be teaching dance here? I told them Rekha and Roopa. Most of them thought “they are studying in school how can they teach our children”,” said Shrimati Hegde, Rekha’s aunt.

But that thought did not stop others from enrolling into this dance school. Within a year there were 44 students who showed interest in this art form. Today, Rekha Hegde is Guru for more than 250 students in Belgaum. Five of her students run their own dance schools these days.

Rekha developed interest in Bharatnatyam watching her sister’s rehearsals. Dance was never just a hobby for Rekha, her love and commitment for dance won her many accolades. Soon after her PUC, she joined Degree College to study BA in dance choreography from Bangalore. Currently, she is pursuing her masters in dance from Mysore University. She has mastered in several art forms like, Bharatnatyam, Nattuvangam, Karnataka Vocal music and Kathak. She is a first rank holder in Vidwat Grade Examinations conducted by KSEE board. Rekha is a graded artist of Bangalore Doordarshan. She was a recipient of Scholarship from CCRT, New Delhi and fellowship from HRD, New Delhi.

“I owe everything to my chikki (her aunt). She has stood by me like my mother and father. And after my marriage my husband has been a great support and a mentor. My children and the other members in the family have also been very encouraging, without their blessing and support all these achievements would have been impossible,” said Rekha.

Her aunt, Shrimati Hegde is seeing her dream come true in Rekha’s achievements. “I wanted to be a dancer and so I encouraged Rekha and Roopa to learn dance,” said Shrimati Hegde.

Her husband, Ashok B K who was working in Bangalore decided to shift his job to Belgaum, only to support his wife to help her run the dance school in Belgaum. “I am very fortunate to have Rekha as my wife. When I first saw her performance I had promised her that I would support her until my last breath,” added Ashok.

Ashok was exposed to various art forms as a child. His sister is also a danseuse. But he says that he had never thought he would marry a danseuse. “I feel proud of her today and I will always continue to support her,” signs off Ashok.

As a guru, her responsibility does not end with only teaching dance, as she puts it, “I make sure my students follow and respect Indian culture. They should wear salwar kameez for dance classes and a bindi on their forehead. Also, I am their mentor; they open their heart to me in the time of grief.”

Adding to the above statement, Srirakhsa (PUC student) said, “If a teacher in school is our second mother then I consider her (rekha) as my third mother.” Sriraksha is Rekha’s student who also takes dance classes in Hindalco.

Twenty years ago, Belgaum witnessed many of Rekha’s performances but she never received the kind of admiration she expected. “Those days, people never understood the importance of a classical dance. If our performance stretched out for more than half an hour, then we could see faces uninterested. To fight this, we mixed folk and classical dance for few years. Slowly, the trend changed and today many understand what classical dance is all about,” informed Rekha.

At Kalapratibhostava which is a state level contest for all art forms, her student Deepti Shetty has bagged the first prize. At another State level contest- Kalashree awards, her students (Dhanyashree Sharma, Vishaka Hegde and Deepti Shetty) have stood first in succession, for three years. Vishaka Hegde has now gone to appear in test for National Bal Shree awards in New Delhi.

Marking Women’s Day celebration, Rekha Hegde a renowned danseuse from Belgaum said, “As a danseuse and a woman, I will work towards spreading our Indian culture through my work. My girls should win many contests and do well in their lives. I pray that, not only as good dancers but my students should also grow as a good woman.”

Her future plans include a Master’s degree in Dance, after which she wants to pursue her PHD (dance). “I still feel there is so much that I don’t know and so I want to do a PHD, and share my knowledge with my students,” added Rekha.

Rekha Hegde’s Gurus:
Karnataka Kalatilaka, Shri Ullal Mohan Kumar, Natyaniketan, Mangalore. (Bharatnatyam)

Late Smt. Narmada, Shakuntala Nrityalaya, Bangalore. (Bharatnatyam)

B Bhanumathi, Nritya Kalamandir, Bangalore. (Bharatnatyam)

Late Smt. Jahnavi Jayaprakash. (Carnatic music vocal)

Smt. Dr. Maya Rao & Smt Chitra Venugopal. (Kathak)

Date & Place of Rangapravesham: On 09.02.1986, at Kalamandir, Belgaum.

Achievements:
Aryabhatta award in 1996
Best Dance Teacher award 2006
Women’s Achiever’s award 2006
Main choreographer at World Kannada Meet 2011

Performances:

She has performed in more than 1000 programs in several state and national level festivals and events, some of them are: Pattadakal utsav, Karavali utsav, Hampi Janapada Jatre (Bangalore & Mumbai), in Karnataka; Alva’s Virasat Utsav, Mangalore; Kittur Utsav; Nippani Uthsav; and Athani and Kolkatta for Karnataka Tourism Department 2011.

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