“Love, dance, dream, pray and change!” That’s the life motto of Renu Kumar, founder and director of R.G.K. Modern Indian Dance Academy in Plymouth. Love and dance are intertwined for Kumar—She’s been dancing since the age of 3. Fifteen years ago, she founded her studio to share her love of Indian dance and culture.
Kumar’s passion began as she watched her older sisters dance. “I saw them dancing, so I’d join them. You know, like little kids dance with the older kids,” Kumar explains. This passion led her to pursue formal training, beginning with classical North Indian Kathak. She received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts and her master’s degree in political science from India’s Meerut University.
Kumar enjoys teaching Bollywood dance, which draws from Indian folk and classical Indian dance and blends it with Western rhythms and contemporary styles like hip-hop. Bollywood refers to the kind of dance that’s performed in popular Indian movies. It draws its name from combining Hollywood and Bombay (now known as Mumbai).
Kumar explains that dance has benefits for overall well-being. “Dance is like a form of yoga,” says Kumar.
"It synchronizes the inner biorhythms with the body’s movements.” Each class ends with a period of yoga and meditation.
In addition to teaching dance, Kumar has been using her art to unite people in the community. “Dance helps communicate the culture and brings the community together,” Kumar says. “I have all kinds of students. It’s multicultural.” Kumar encourages people of all ages to join in on the fun. “There are no barriers. Teenagers, young, old,” Kumar says. “Everybody is welcome. Whoever has a passion for dance.”
The school’s Bollywood dance drama performances are a highlight for students. During a three- to four-month period, Kumar and her volunteers write, choreograph, direct and design every show they put on. At the end of the year, they do a major performance for a large audience. The performances allow students to showcase what they’ve been learning, and they also support worthy causes.
“We create our own play production and through our art, we try to support a charity. And through creating and doing that, we have a lot of fun,” Kumar says. In the past, they have raised funds for groups including AshaUSA, an organization that works to help South Asian communities in Minnesota through culturally specific services, Second Harvest Heartland, the Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society and others.
This September, to celebrate their 15th anniversary, they put on a special show titled Parchaai— “shadow” in Hindi. The show featured highlights of the studio’s past 15 performances, and was directed and choreographed by Kumar.
Whether it’s a passion for dance or a desire for community, R.G.K Modern Indian Dance Academy offers a way for people to stretch their creative muscles. It also gives students the opportunity to learn from Kumar, a highly regarded dancer and choreographer who has won multiple awards. Kumar emphasizes that the class is not only a place for dance, but a place that feels like home. “After our class, you feel so relaxed and happy,” Kumar says. “Our main goal is to have fun, dance and exercise. There’s so much stress that people have these days—dancing helps relieves that stress.”