Asian Music and Dance

Daksha Sheth and Isha Sharvani

Daksha Sheth is internationally renowned for her avante garde productions spanning a journey from kathak to kalari and aerial work. Daughter Isha Sharvani, a relative late starter at 13 has never looked back, after a stint at Bollywood. Two courageous women with a shared passion for dance speak to Ambika Kucheria.


My mother is a very gentle person, with a lot of fire inside her! She has great self-belief and conviction – breaking the norm by choosing a career in dance and leaving her home town Ahmedabad. Even her decision to marry my dad, an Australian musician, against serious criticism took a lot of guts. 

As a dancer, mom has the most extraordinary passion. She loves every minute of what she does. Her dance company is one of the most progressive in the country – she was the first to do classical dance to western classical music. In her production ‘Sarpgati’, mom and a male dancer did a section on sexuality. While the audiences loved it, the Indian dance community and critics shredded it. For two years, no one touched our company, but mom just carried on working. 

Although I loved mom’s work, I showed no inclination to dance until age 13 – quite late given my background. But my parents never pushed me to learn. In fact, mom warned me that to be a dancer you have to work really hard and be a bit mad!

While mom is a very soft person, as a guru she believes in strict discipline and gets very upset if you don’t practise. In class, I got no special treatment being ‘Daksha Sheth’s daughter’. In fact, mom told me that if I wanted respect in the dance company, I would have to earn it and if I got bullied by the senior students, I would have to deal with it myself. 

My father always jokes that he didn’t marry mom for her cooking! But seriously, my parents have a beautiful relationship. Dad is the intellectual, the ‘idea guy’, while mom is the heart, who goes ahead and executes those ideas. They are both on the same journey and that is very rare. 

“She’s my mother, my teacher and my best friend”

Everyone sees mom as a fiery, passionate person, which she is, but every woman also goes though vulnerable times, which only we get to see. As a mom, she is a Supermom who has given me so much knowledge, respect and freedom. She’s my mother, my teacher and my best friend – and that is so cool!


It was a conscious decision not to impose dance on Isha, as I don’t feel I own my children. I should just be there to guide them.

When Isha chose to leave school at age 13 to pursue dance, my family was very upset. But I felt this was her decision. Also, education is not just a certificate – travelling with us and seeing us struggle, Isha learnt a lot. She has matured young and has developed the capacity to see life from other people’s perspective. 

“I warned Isha that dance is an unforgiving profession…”

However, I did warn Isha that dance is a very unforgiving profession, requiring a lot of hard work with little return. A dancer is as good as their last performance and a lot has to be achieved at a young age. I suggested she try it out for six months, but Isha never looked back.

Isha’s dance training was very eclectic. Rather than teaching her any particular dance style, I consciously chose a more holistic method focusing on body strength and flexibility using gymnastics, kalari and swimming. In fact, she only started training in kathak and chau three years ago. I am, personally too, more interested in movement rather than a particular dance form.

Having an exciting pupil is a pleasure for a teacher. I create according to the dancer’s body and it excites me to create for Isha. I find that I have to work hard to keep up with her. We both challenge each other. She is very courageous to undertake aerial work and her skill on the rope is amazing. She is capable of contributing a great deal to Indian dance. 

At 19, Isha was very excited to be offered a role in a high-profile Bollywood film. We didn’t stop her, as one shouldn’t close the door on any new experience. After doing a few films, Isha has decided that she would rather dance and we have again supported her decision.

Isha has a sharp mind like her father and madness like me. She has also inherited our fierceness and stubbornness. My hope for Isha’s future is that she leads the life of a compassionate human being, as an artist and as a person. Human qualities are as important as your art. 



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