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In today's candid section we have the beautiful and energetic Kathak dansesue Nikita Banawalikar. She's the Founder Director of Kala Vatikaa Studio for Performing Arts, Pune, Maharashtra. Presently taking tutelage under revered Kathak exponent Shama Bhate, Nikita has a record of taking training for her Kathak dance for 10 years under Manjiri S. Deo and at Padma Bhushan Kumidini Lakhia's Kadamb Centre for Dance, Ahmedabad, Gujrat. She took training at the Kadamb under Sanjukta Sinha for 5 years. Moreover, she attends Kathak dance workshops of the Kathak legend Pt. Birju Maharaj.

Nikita is a Masters in Performing Arts with Distinction from Bharati Vidyapeeth, Pune and entitled with Visharad Purna from Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal, Mumbai. Apart from being a wonderfully credited danseuse, Nikita is an MBA in Hr from Symbiosis, Pune and a Masters in Commerce with Distinction from R. A. Poddar College, Mumbai. An ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations), Ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India empaneled artiste and a recipient of the National Scholarship for Young Artistes, Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India. Nikita Banawalikar performed in places like London, Paris, Berlin, Bangkok, Rome, etc. Nikita is an examplar to many youths to carry forward their passion along with their academics.

Q1. What was that turning point or achievement in your childhood which guided your decision to be a professional danseuse?

Nikita: I was initiated into learning dance from a very young age of 5. My mother put me into a local Bharatnatyam class because she always wanted to learn and thereby fulfilled her dream by making me learn the classical dance form and that's how the journey began. I was continuing Bharatnatyam when I watched kathak and just fell in love with the form and started learning in the same institute later I went ahead with proper training under Dr.Manjiri Deo where I completed my Visharad from Gandharva Mahavidhyalaya. With the intention to learn more in the form I went to Padma Bhushan Kumudini Lakhia ji's Kadamb Centre for Dance, Ahmedabad to train further and lately my CCRT scholarship was under Guru Shama Bhate ji in Pune. So everything just went in the flow. I didn't initiate a thought on taking it as a career or becoming a professional dancer. But I always loved to be on stage, imagining myself in a 9 am to 5 pm job didn't seem appealing and hence I tried to keep on going ahead with kathak and I hope to try and make a professional career out of it.

Q2. Besides being an ardent Kathak learner, you are a perfect example of been accomplishing your academics so well. How could you manage all of these together at the same time?

Nikita: Academic education was important as dance in my home. And my parents have been very clear that both should be very well balanced right from my school days and maybe that was something which I followed forever. I HV now completed 3 masters (Masters in performing arts, MBA in HR & masters of commerce) all thanks to the environment I had at my home. It was strict in terms of both daily practice and studies so I used to divide time for all of these things and I feel time management and will power is the key to go. So when parents or kids grumble that we don't get time I really find it funny because I have gone through the same phase and yet never complained.

Q3. What is your point of thought when you see many talented Kathak dancers, carving their Kathak creations upon Bollywood's semi-classical or the peppy dance numbers?

Nikita: Firstly it's an individual's choice and drawing a conclusion on it won't be correct. We all know how difficult it is to make a career in the classical field and the easy way out to it and reaching a mass is easy through Bollywood numbers. When it comes to me I feel classical dance or any kind of classical music was for a certain class of people and not for mass so my way of looking at it is different. What moves me in classical dance is its aesthetic quality and the submergence by the artist .it has the strength to move a person and show what emotional connection is built without conversation. But again to make a professional career and full time requires a lot of patience and I suppose that's the reason why the easy path seems more appealing. I just feel that people should be made aware of the difference between a classical form and the other versions. Trust me people will definitely appreciate and respect it if they get to see the actual and pure form, it all about what as an artiste we put forth.

Q4. What is your global perspective on making Indian classical dance and specifically Kathak Dance popular?

Nikita: Indian classical dance as a form is doing wonders globally. There are such amazing dancers and organizations in the world contributing to the field. When it comes to kathak I really appreciate many dance companies venturing into different choreographies, thought-provoking productions to give a contemporary approach. I really wish to learn more to collaborate with these wonderful artistes and try and bring my voice out in the future . The kind of appreciation and critical viewpoint that I HV got after performances abroad are overwhelming.

Q5. You are a humble danseuse. But still, what do you think is the best in you for any newcomer in the dance profession who can learn or get inspired by you?

Nikita: "Be a student for life". Just follow this and never stop learning. It's a never-ending process. There are so many inspiring artistes, make it a point to go for performances, watch them and get inspired. Secondly do not blindly copy. Deriving inspiration from an artist and just copying his or her style are two different things. Do not make social media your teacher. Keep on learning and growing and be true to yourself.

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