My Journey - Odissi 2 Salsa!

On the sets of "The Myth"

From early childhoold on, I have been in love with movement and dance. I studied ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance, with resident and visiting international dance teachers. I also studied the classical Indian dance forms of Bharatnatyam and Odissi with the best local teachers of gurukul lineages.

As a teenager, I dreamt of auditioning with the great dance companies that had inspired me: the Bejart Ballet Lausanne and the Martha Graham Dance Company. I never went fully professional, but if you look carefully, you'll see me in several of the Bollywood-style ensemble dance sequences in Jackie Chan's "The Myth" :-).

When I was a young adult, I was seriously considering the study of Odissi as a lifetime pursuit. Anupama, my BFF at the time, and I were studying the dance together and her mother gifted me with a number of saris for practice. Anupama's parents were Bengali, and these saris were my first major exposure to the magnificent Bengali Tangail and Jamdani weaves.

Eventually I realized that Odissi was not my calling, and that I could not do the art-form the justice it deserved. I was deeply disappointed but moved on and found a passion for another entirely different dance - Salsa!

See the resemblance?

My great-great grandfather, Pierre Alexandre Isaac, was the Senator of Guadeloupe. There are still 3 main streets in Guadeloupe named after him, as well as a statue of him in the main square. So perhaps it was my Caribbean roots, but I instantly connected with the Afro-Caribbean music and movements of Salsa. For many years it was an obsession for me, and I traveled extensively to study and dance Salsa.

An early Naksha skirt; the current version

Left with these gorgeous saris which I could no longer dance Odissi in, I decided to transform them into skirts that I could wear while dancing and peforming salsa. These skirts, each made from a single Tangail sari, were early versions of what was to become my signature piece and best-seller, the Naksha skirt. Soon, salsa dancers and other friends were asking me where I got my skirts, and I started getting requests to make and sell them.

Prema F. Isaac