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After Hours: Dancing dame Chandana Agarwal

When Agarwal took up dancing as working professional, she sensed a need gap and the rest as they say is history

Chandana Agarwal

(This is a weekly series on advertising professionals who have enriched their own lives and their audiences as performing musicians, artists, painters, actors, singers, mime artists. We will bring a new adman-performer every Thursday.)

Many, when they start working, lose touch with their passion. The grind of daily life somewhere robs into the time and dedication that one earlier invested in the one thing that they passionately love. With Chandana Agarwal, Managing Partner, Ogilvy & Mather, the case was that although she was always interested in dancing, she couldn’t pursue it during her student life.


“During my childhood, I did learn Bharatanatyam and Kathak but could not pursue it because there was never enough time. So, I took it up when I joined McCann Delhi in the year 2004.”

But the problem with being a working professional is that the timings are erratic and there aren’t many classes that cater to working professionals in terms of flexible timings.

“When you are working, you can’t go to a regular class because you never know when the day will end. So, it was when I took on a more senior role, that of an Account Director, that I started learning Kathak.”

It is the problem that Chandana faced while searching for a class to suit her needs that led to the birth of Marigold Society of Performing Arts.

“The reason Marigold Society of Performing Arts came into being is because of a few things that were happening at that point of time in my life. One reason was that as a working woman it was difficult to find a class that would cater to my needs. In fact, because I couldn’t find someone to teach me on weekends I even had to discontinue my practice for about six to seven months. This is when I started thinking that there might be a lot of people like me who deserve the chance to pursue their passion and just because they are working shouldn’t mean they cannot.”

The classes that started in the year 2014 are also a tribute to Agarwal’s Guruji Guru Ghanshyam Ganganiji of the Jaipur Gharana and offers classes in classical music and dance.

“For me, this institute is not about making money. It is, first and foremost, to ensure that my Guruji is financially supported and secondly to make Kathak accessible to all, irrespective of age and the person’s social standing.”

Even the name Marigold reflects this ideology, says Agarwal.

“The reason I named it Marigold is because it is a flower that is used in worship and it is one of the most accessible flowers. So, it is pure but not exclusive.”

Marigold Society of Performing Arts also teaches Kathak to underprivileged children both at the centre and also by going to their school.

“We have tied up with an NGO and we go to a school for underprivileged children twice a week to teach Kathak to them and two kids were so good that a sponsor came forward and now they are getting specific coaching at our centre.”

Their next goal is to extend the classes to children with special needs and the institute is working towards that direction.

Speaking about the moment she cherishes the most in this journey of hers, Chandana talks about their big show Arpana that took place last year in Delhi.

“There was a point in my life when I had to restructure my house and get sound-proofing done on my floor just to be able to restart my training. From there to be able to start a school and to be able to have 25 odd students perform on a big stage was a big moment for me and my Guruji.”

So, what does dancing really mean to her?

“Dance helps me connect better with myself, it helps me re energise over the weekend so I am good as new on a Monday, my work is very deadline oriented and therefore it brings to fore one side of me, but dance is about just being in the moment, about perfecting that move, that chakkar, that expression so it helps me dip into another side of me. It's my spa, my meditation, my gym and my yoga.”

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