'Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less travelled
And that has made all the difference.’
- 'Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost
These lines aptly describe the life of choreographer and Dancesport athlete Rajeswari Vaidyanathan. An ex-banker with brands such Citibank, Kotak Mahindra and Yes Bank, Rajeswari had practically climbed the summit of a corporate career. Born in a typical family where academics was given the topmost priority, Rajeswari was encouraged to focus only in studies and career. But destiny had other plans for her. While on the road to the top as a banker, she realized she wanted to live her life on her own terms. And so she quit her corporate career to pursue dancing full time. There was no turning back. She learnt Dancesport seriously with top mentors of the international circuit and represented India in many international Dancesport championships. She won the gold medal for India in the Thailand Open Championship and the silver in the Taipei Open Championship. Her latest project is as a choreographer is in Mira Nair’s film The Suitable Boy. In the past, She has trained Bollywood stars Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor, Randeep Hooda, Shahana Goswami, and many others. Today she is the proud founder of VR Dancesport, a premier dance academy in India that teaches authentic international Latin Ballroom dance.
In our conversation with Rajeswari we talk with her about leaving a cushy job at the peak of her career, venturing into the unknown and her thoughts on living her life in her own terms..
You were at the top of your career as a banker when you decided to pursue Dancesport as a career. What gave you the courage to make such drastic career change decision?
Change is a part of life and being able to adapt has been my strength in my corporate career. I was contemplating on starting a business of my own, given the kind of experience I had. Dance was the best option as that was what I had wanted to do since childhood but never got a chance till now. I knew the best time would be at the point I decided to leave. Leaving the monetary comfort was a very difficult decision. So finally I closed my eyes and plunged into it. I knew if I defer the situation and you can never be ready! I have always been head strong so that helped.
How difficult was it to be trained as a dancer, start learning a skill from the basics at an age when most of us are usually 'settled' in life?
I had to work on the fitness; I had to learn from the basics. Learning from the basics made it easier because I did not have the issue of unlearning and relearning. By nature I am a fast learner and adaptive. I think that helped. Secondly, I did not think it was difficult. It is a mindset. I never sat back and rationalized ‘was it difficult’ and ‘people are younger’ – yes people start at the age of 5 years, they retire by the age of 24 years. But I never think something is difficult. If something has to be done, it has to be done. I had to work much harder but I did not realize it. I had a mindset and attitude which helped me yield results faster than others. I had a school to teach. So I did not have the privilege and the luxury to take a long time to learn. I had to deliver to my students.
Do you regret that you lost so many years of your life not learning a skill that you see yourself so good at now? If you started dancing 10 yrs ago probably by now you would have reached greater heights as a dancer.
I absolutely do not regret losing out so many years. That is because the experience that the corporate world has given me is amazing. I would not have so much confidence in myself if not for the corporate. So the experience and the success that my corporate career allowed me have helped me to be successful in my dancing career. If have been able to surpass people who have been there for decades it is because of my experience in the corporate. If someone had told me to start dancing 10 yrs before, I would not have done that. I wanted to prove myself in the corporate which was very important for my inner strength and confidence. Now I am at peace with myself dancing.
You said banking became very stressful after a point in your life. How much of dancing is stressful now that you are out to prove yourself again and establishing VR Dancesport as a premier Dancesport academy in India?
I have proven my skills. What is lacking is the acceptance of the people from the dance world for the simple reason is that they don’t care for quality in India. If I give them Bollywood Latin, they are happy. They get threatened when someone who is internationally trained comes in.
Secondly, it is a man’s world. It is always a man who commands not the woman. These things are more of a challenge than proving or not proving myself. My success was in the first two years itself. Instead of Dancesport, people in India want to do hip-hop and contemporary. We speak to people about Salsa, Bachata and bring them into Latin ballroom. VR Dancesport is the only dance school which has not diversified into other dance forms. That has been a struggle not to prove whether if we are top dancers or not.
How do you balance your home front and your professional front?
Balancing my professional life and my personal life is a huge challenge but it is not just for me but for women all across the world. A woman has to be more productive so that she can be free to spend the rest of the time with the family. So the efficiency level has to increase. One thing I learnt was time management; I learnt how to do more in a given time.
There are many people who would like to live their lives on their own terms and choices. But they are afraid for whatever reasons. What is your message to them?
We have capabilities to do or achieve to the extent that we wish to. If we make our minds up there is nothing stopping us. Skill is not the point. You are what you want to be. You have to love what you want to do.