Volunteer Profile Series: Noelle Barton

Posted on December 30, 2011 by


This holiday season, Chhandam would like to honor the outstanding contributions of some of our most energetic and committed volunteers!

Noelle’s relationship with Chhandam and Panditji goes back to 1977 when she started studying Kathak with him. As a dancer since childhood, she came to Kathak after watching a performance of Panditji’s and being intrigued by his style of dance. Little did she know then, that Kathak would become such an integral part of her for the rest of her life.  She considers Panditji’s teachings through dance, as lessons of life that demands a certain level of discipline and accountability towards oneself.

Noelle was a member of the Chitresh Das Dance Company from 1980 to 1989, which was made up of all White Americans at that time (“the blondes and brunettes” as Panditji often says) and she toured with Panditji and the company to India. As one of the early students, she remembers their routine as several hours of rigorous dance training and recitation and then driving Panditji to different class locations in the Bay Area. Chhandam then was a small close-knit group of 16 students and the company sewed their own costumes, made posters and publicity materials for their shows, and managed all other areas of productions.

Noelle went on a nine-year long sabbatical in 1989 and met Panditji again in Kolkata, India in December 1997. In 1999, she returned to take classes at Chhandam, which had grown to several hundred students and where the dancing style had evolved, including the introduction of Kathak Yoga.  So Noelle had to relearn how to dance in this new environment.

With her passion for dance, a strong belief in Panditji’s teachings and as a link to the early years of Chhandam, Noelle has been a great asset to the organization. During events and performances, she takes on the very essential behind-the-scenes tasks, such as organizing and gathering production and display materials and moving them to and from the venue with utmost care and responsibility. Recently, at the 30th Anniversary celebration and at the Traditions Engaged Festival, Noelle was instrumental in putting together a retrospective exhibition that showcased the rich history of Pandit Chitresh Das and his work.

Noelle believes that dance has given her spiritual cleansing, focus, an endearing community and a family. She has been a generous donor for the organization and has volunteered innumerable hours with a feeling of ownership towards the dance and the organization.   Her long history with Chhandam and her treasured stories of spending time with Panditji during is early life in the U.S. (which she so enthusiastically recounts from pages of journals) have been a wonderful gift and important perspective to the upcoming younger generations.

Ever since Noelle has come back to dance, it has made her feel 10 years younger and she feels that she is dancing stronger now at 60 than she was at 50!

As Noelle celebrates her 60th birthday later this year, we would like to thank her for bringing her passion, energy and care to the organization and into the classes. Thank you Noelle!