University of Kentucky

Anjuli Bhattacharyya: Turning in a grand performance

By Linda Perry

Anjuli Bhattacharyya ’07 BE, a modern dancer and choreographer living in New York, N.Y., returned to the University of Kentucky campus recently to help choreograph the UK Dance Ensemble’s Spring 2013 event, scheduled for April at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

Bhattacharyya, who was born in Arizona and moved to Lexington as a child, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at UK with an emphasis in marketing, along with a minor in dance. It was after graduation, when she attended the American Dance Festival in North Carolina, that she heard the calling to move to New York, N.Y., to pursue a professional dance career.

“There are two different worlds for dance. There’s LA, the more commercial side, and New York, the more creative side,” she says. “It was very intimidating to move to New York, and it was really rough for me at first. The market is so oversaturated in dance, and then you have to decide what niche you want to pursue. Am I a jazz dancer, a modern dancer?” she says. “I didn’t know if I had the ‘staying power’ to make it, but I love dance so much I had to give it a shot. After about six months a lot of my friends from the American Dance Festival moved to New York, and I had connections. From that, I got into a company.”

Bhattacharyya is no stranger to the sometimes cutthroat competition of the world of dance. She gained enormous experience in 2011 for four months on India’s No. 1 reality dance show “Just Dance,” scoring as one of the top 21 competitors. In the United States, she has appeared in music videos for Maroon 5, Felix Snow and Clifton. Commercials and some opportunities in film also have come her way. From 2009-12, she also danced as a full-time company member for Eyes of a Blue Dog Dance Theater, a contemporary ballet and modern mixed media dance company in Manhattan.

She has taught jazz, modern, contact improvisation and street jazz classes for 10 years in both Kentucky and New York, including at the New York City Center for the Fall for Dance program in 2010.

“I like teaching workshops. It’s important to me because it is giving dancers new experiences. They have their regular teachers that they get their technique and everyday training with, but there are certain things that dancers tend to be afraid of, like partnering with someone else or doing really athletic work. So with a workshop you have three hours to give these dancers a really unique experience that might spawn a new idea,” Bhattacharyya says.

Her trip to Lexington to help UK students with the Dance Ensemble event brings back lots of memories for this young alum.

“Growing up in Kentucky, there wasn’t much modern dance. So going to UK was the first time I really had an immersion in a modern program. I figure I was always doing modern but didn’t know what it was. As a kid, I was doing solos with no shoes on and people would say ‘What are you doing?’ It turns out I was doing modern,” she says.

A big plus for her at UK was the opportunity she had to choreograph. “I love performing and dancing. But choreography is one of my true loves,” she says. “It is a different way of creating. While dancing for somebody else, you get to see somebody else’s dream come to fruition. But as an artist yourself, you sometimes want to get out your own ideas to others,” she says.

While at UK, Bhattacharyya was president of the UK Dance Ensemble and choreographed over 15 pieces for the student group. She received several honors, including the Mary King Montgomery Kouns Choreography Award, the R.D. and Caroline Kirkpatrick Scholarship, and in 2007 she was honored with the Founder’s Scholarship for significant contribution to dance at UK. She also received a full summer scholarship to the American Dance Festival in 2007 and 2008.

The UK Dance Ensemble received a grant from Lexington Forensic Neuropsychiatry, Dr. Robert P. Granacher ’72 MED and Linda Granacher ’66 PH, ’84 SW, to bring Bhattacharyya to Lexington this month, where she spent a long weekend working with Dance Ensemble Director Rayma Beal and the group. Beal, a Dance Ensemble founder and now emeritus faculty from the College of Education Kinesiology Education Program, says teaming with Bhattacharyya for this concert is important.

“We try to bring in one or two guest choreographers each semester to work with the dancers in Ensemble. The reason it is important is because the students need an opportunity to work with professionals, they need to experience other dance forms and styles the choreographers bring to their movement, and they need to hear other voices teaching dance phrases and patterns other than their teachers,” Beal says.

In New York, Bhattacharyya is currently devoting her dance passion to producing, choreography, directing and performing in Just Dance Live, a series of live concert events that are broadcast on Star TV. If that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she also is the creative director for Cre808 Studios, a creative space in Brooklyn, N.Y., for artists. She is currently working on choreographing a flash mob. And one of her most recent experiences she can add to her resume is that of an aerial dancer, one who uses silks and ropes in the performance.

Based on her own experiences, she has advice for aspiring dance students in college. “Don’t give up. Really decide that you want to be a dancer. It’s hard work, it’s never going to be easy, and you’re never going to make a lot of money,” she says. “And you must network. You can be an amazing dancer, but if you have a bad attitude or if you don’t know the right people, it’s never going to happen for you. Just be genuine.”

The Dance Ensemble Concert is Saturday, April 20, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 21, at 2 p.m. in the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital Hall. Tickets will be sold through the SCFA Box Office, 859-257-4929.