WALTHAM, MA– Boston’s Indian classical dance icon and teacher Neena Gulati will receive the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award, INDIA New England News announced. Ms. Gulati is the founder of the Brookline, MA-based Triveni School of Dance, which is celebrating its 51st anniversary this year, and is the first Indian classical dance school in New England.
“After staging her own arangetram in 1961 in New Delhi and performing at the United National General Assembly in 1964, Ms. Gulati has been one of the early pioneers of Indian classical dance in the United States,” said Upendra Mishra, publisher of INDIA New England News and its sister publications IndUS Business Journal, Life Sciences Times and Boston Real Estate Times. “We’re excited to honor her on behalf on the Indian-American community and our readers.”
Mr. Mishra added: “For so many years, INDIA New England News readers have been requesting to honor Ms. Gulati with this Lifetime Achievement award. This year, we’re very happy bestowing this prestigious honor to her.”
Dr. Manju Sheth, MD, who launched the Lifetime Achievement Award at INDIA New England News nine years ago and serves as its director and hostess, said that Ms. Gulati’s devotion to promoting and teaching Indian classical dance is deeply rooted in the rich Indian heritage.
“She has created an enormous legacy by teaching thousands of students who are subsequently teaching others, thereby making it a gift that will keep on giving,” said Dr. Sheth. “Coincidentally, we are showcasing her student, Devika Dhawan as the featured dancer the Woman of the Year gala.”
Ms. Gulati will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award on April 14, 2023 at the 20th Annual Woman of the Year Awards gala, where 10 outstanding women in the areas of science, technology, business, healthcare, arts and culture, and community and social services will also be honored. The event is attended by about 500 business and community leaders, philanthropists, and professionals.
To buy a ticket for the 20th Annual Woman of the Year Gala, please click here.
“Needless to say, I am honored and humbled to receive this award,” Ms. Gulati told INDIA New England News. “When I started Triveni school on April 1st., 1971, my dream was to teach as many students as possible so we can keep this beautiful art form flourishing for generations to come. I have been blessed with good health so I can keep dancing and very fortunate to have a very supportive family. Equally important is the many super dedicated students who have been with me for over 30 years. They not only help me teach but organize shows involving over 350 student dancers in a single show.”
Ms. Gulati was born in New Delhi, India, and began dancing when she was only four years old.
A master of the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam, Ms. Gulati has received high critical acclaim for her professional performances throughout India and the United States. Since moving to the US in 1967, she has performed at countless functions and universities across the continent and in England.
Moreover, Ms. Gulati has taught at Brown University and has been a guest artist at several universities in New England. She gives lecture-demonstrations, explaining and demonstrating her art form to varied audiences. She also collaborates with artists of different disciplines, including actors, musicians, dancers, and poets. She has been involved in numerous benefit performances and has choreographed dance dramas.
“Neena Gulati is an icon, and a beloved teacher of classical Indian dance to countless students for decades,” said Dr. Sanjiv Chopra, a best-selling author and a professor at Harvard Medical School, and his wife Amita Chopra, who have known Ms. Gulati for over four decades. “They were all fortunate to learn from a brilliant, dedicated teacher. How fortunate for us in the Greater Boston community to have her grace us all with her skills and passion and with her consummate talent and love.”
An energetic and loving teacher, Ms. Gulatin is an excellent example of the guru-shishya tradition of teaching that has preserved the purity of Indian classical dance since the time of the Vedas. The Boston Globe described her as a “pioneer in bringing classical Indian dance in all its nuance to new England.”
The Boston Dance Alliance, an independent organization that supports dance across the Boston metropolitan area, named Ms. Gulati its 2016 Dr. Michael Shannon Dance Champion. This award, created in 2004, recognizes those who have made important and lasting contributions to the dance landscape in Boston.
“I met Neenaji when I joined my first dance class at the age of 5 in the 1980s. I don’t remember a time in my life before Neenaji. From the beginning, she has been like a second mother to me, and the Triveni dance studio feels like my first home,” said Oami Amarasingham, a former student of Ms. Gulati and Deputy Director of Massachusetts Public Health Association. “Through Triveni, Neenaji created a community space that gave me a deep connection to my roots, shaped my identity, introduced me to many of my best friends, and supported me through every phase of my life.”
Priyanka Subash, currently a teacher at Triveni School of Dance, has been a student of Ms. Gulati since 1993.
“My experience at Triveni has been an integral part of my development and identity. Through the three styles of Indian Classical dance: Bharatnatyam, Odissi and Kuchipudi, Neena aunty teaches students about the richness and nuances of this art form,” said Subash. “The relationship I share with Neena aunty has been extremely special. She has taught me patience, passion, and unwavering commitment to this art form. My experiences at Triveni have helped me develop confidence and artistic freedom and creativity.”
She said Ms. Gulati forms close bonds with each one of her students and families and many students continue to stay connected with the dance icon throughout various milestones in their lives.
“Neena aunty has a unique ability to highlight one’s strengths with nurturance and loving guidance,” said Ms. Subash. “Neena aunty has a great sense of humor and strives to make students feel comfortable and valued.”
In addition to teaching, Ms. Gulati has also created Triveni Ensemble that allows students to both choreograph and perform dances at a professional level. Proceeds are given to various national and international nonprofit- organizations, said Ms. Subash.
“Through both learning and teaching dance, myself and many students at Triveni have developed a deeper understanding and connection to our Indian heritage. We have been able to share the beauty of this art form in our communities and use this platform for collaboration with other artists,” said Ms. Subash. “We are deeply grateful to Neena Aunty for all her support and guidance and are thrilled she has received the Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Roopa Modha, a student of Ms. Gulati and a dance teacher at Triveni, said that a Lifetime Achievement Award must look at the life of the individual and it must also reflect the impact the individual has made on the lives of others.
“There is no doubt that Neena aunty has made an everlasting impression on everyone she encounters, and especially the community at-large in New England. I have had a unique relationship with Neena Aunty since the day I first joined classes and have had three distinct chapters of interaction with her – one as a child for 3 years of training after which I had to take a break due to an injury, then as an adult when I returned to dance in 2018, and finally as a teacher since 2019,” said Ms. Modha. “In each phase, the constant was that Neena aunty taught me that first and foremost we must love to dance ourselves, and secondly must teach students to love dance too. While technique is important, she taught that a teacher must ensure each student loves dance. That mindset really governs all aspects of training and teaching at Triveni. Neena aunty has taught me to never let go of one’s passion, to always respect our culture, and that age is but a number.”
Ms. Modha says that she was a young child when she first met Ms. Gulati and what she remembers most about her that moment is the warmth that she emitted.
“She was not a typical “strict” Guru who was overly demanding of her students. Instead, she taught with compassion and patience. Neena Aunty and I have always shared a special connection that never faded even over time when I wasn’t able to dance,” said Ms. Modha. “She remained a force of positivity in my life and ensured I didn’t give up my love of dance. To this day, she still emits that same warmth and kindness to all her students.”