Finding solace in danceRun by Sunil Gupta, the Rudradevi Art Center is a space for over 300 individuals—from children to office goers—to learn different forms of dance.
Sunil Gupta, 29, wakes up every morning at four. Then, he goes to the Rudradevi Art Center in Siddharthanagar, Bhairahawa, Rupandehi, just a kilometre from his room. Upon reaching, he cleans two halls inside the centre. After lighting a diyo (a small oil lamp) for the deities, he welcomes the morning class trainees by playing music. Then, they start with a warm-up and begin dancing. Sunil remains occupied throughout the day, working until 11 pm at night.
Sunil’s parents, Narema and Paramananda, had five children to educate and raise. No one in their family—farmers by profession—gave much thought to dancing. Except for him.
Since his school days, he has been a fan of Michael Jackson. Whenever he had access to the Internet, he used to watch Michael Jackson’s videos. With the aim of making a career in dance, he received training for some time in various dance institutes in Rupandehi. In 2008, after giving the SLC (now SEE) examination, he went to India for the first time. “I went with the thought of doing something by learning dance,” he said, “But to my family and friends, I said I was going to find some work.”
He worked at a hotel in Mumbai for three months while also taking dance classes. “After I entered Mumbai, I slept on railway platforms for 25 days. Even today, I remember the struggles; no one knew me. I spent those sleepless nights watching the movement of trains and people,” he recalled. After 25 days, he enrolled in a dance class, making friends along the way.
Later, he returned to Nepal to continue his studies. After appearing in the 12th-grade examination, he again went to India without hesitation. “The second time was much easier,” he said, “I travelled to Noida, Delhi, and Mumbai to learn how to dance.”
After spending about five years in India learning freestyle, Zumba, and Bollywood dance, he returned to Nepal in 2015. After that, he opened an art centre in his village, Amuwa in Rupandehi. However, he had no students. So, he decided to provide free training to the children in the area. About a year later, he moved to Bhairahawa. After witnessing young folks’ interest in dance there, he established the Rudradevi Art Center. Currently, the centre has two large halls and five instructors. He said, “Rudradevi now has over 300 students. Classes start at five in the morning and can go on until nine at night.”
According to him, there is a Zumba class in the morning. “In my class, both women and men come together to dance. Students come in the evening, and office workers fill the place at night,” he said, adding that a three-month course at the centre costs Rs5,000.
Initially, he started the art centre with just one room, but now he pays a monthly rent of one lakh rupees for the entire flat. The centre also conducts teachers’ training—he charges Rs150, 000 for a year-long training course. “Those who learn dance here have gone on to teach in prestigious schools and have also opened their dance centres,” he said.
His art centre Rudradevi maintains a vibrant social media presence with over 400,000 followers on TikTok. He posts tutorial videos on social media and has admirers not just in Nepal but also in Italy, Australia, France and India.
For him, simply giving dance instructions is not enough—it’s a job half done. Sunil also prioritises the mental well-being of the children he teaches. Drawing from his own experiences of mental health issues, he implements methods to address the possible impact on children’s mental health by giving them advice and teaching them about proper eating habits.
“During the lockdown, I went through depression, and it was a wake-up call,” he said. Sunil also shared that the financial difficulties faced by his family had a significant impact on his mental state. “We had to borrow money for my father’s treatment, but we couldn’t save him,” he added, “Three of us—my brothers and me—had to pay the debts.” The situation worsened during the Covid lockdown, as he had to stop operating the dance centre. It was only through dance that he has able to find some solace and rise above his condition.
In Sunil’s experience, engaging in dance can help people maintain good mental health, enabling them to stay stress-free and feel rejuvenated. “Dancing helps people forget their sorrows and worries—especially for the older students in my dance group. They dance to relieve stress from their work and life.”
Thanks to his effort and skill, Sunil revealed that he earns up to Rs100,000 through his dance centre. But he doesn’t wish to stop there. His aim is to travel abroad through his dance while also representing Nepal. “I had the opportunity to permanently settle in Australia, but I chose not to go,” he said.
Instead, he decided to stay in Nepal and teach people the beauty and joy of dancing. He revealed that he wishes to show people that despite hardships, there is space for those who wish to pursue their dreams and aspirations and eventually succeed.