What inspired your shift from Mumbai to Rishikesh, and what motivated you to establish a dance academy in your hometown?
Ajay Rawat: After working extensively in Mumbai where we established our first branch, followed by the opening of our second branch in Hyderabad by one of our roommates, I felt a deep calling to return to my roots in Rishikesh. The serene ambiance and spiritual essence of Rishikesh provided me with a fresh perspective on dance education. Having experienced the vibrant dance scene in Mumbai, I was inspired to bring that energy and expertise back to my hometown. I wanted to help artists in Rishikesh have good exposure for their art while also sharing my knowledge and passion for dance with the aspiring dancers here. This motivation led me to establish a dance academy in Rishikesh, where I could contribute to the cultural enrichment of my community and provide a platform for local talents to shine.
How does the dance culture and aspirations of students in Rishikesh differ from those in Mumbai?
Ajay Rawat: If we talk about the culture in Mumbai, the artists there come from different backgrounds and cultures, contributing to a diverse and dynamic dance scene. Mumbai offers a plethora of options for artists in the industry to work with, ranging from reality shows to dance shows and movies. On the other hand, the talent in Rishikesh is undoubtedly rich, but unfortunately, they often lack the required exposure, training, and techniques to thrive in the competitive dance industry. My main focus in shifting back to Rishikesh was to share my 10 years of experience, whether it be from reality shows, dance shows, or movies, with the students and artists in Rishikesh. Having experienced the gap and lack of opportunities firsthand during my own studies in Rishikesh, I was determined to provide the younger generation with the exposure and training they deserve. The dance culture in Rishikesh is deeply influenced by the spiritual and natural surroundings of the region. While Mumbai boasts a fast-paced and competitive dance industry, Rishikesh fosters a more holistic approach to dance, focusing on self-expression, inner growth, and harmony with nature. Students in Rishikesh often have a strong desire to connect with their inner selves through dance, seeking a deeper meaning beyond just professional advancement and performance opportunities, which are often emphasized more in Mumbai.
How do you believe your academy is impacting the local society in Rishikesh, culturally and economically?
Ajay Rawat: Our academy plays a significant role in enriching the local society culturally by providing a platform for artistic expression and preserving traditional dance forms. Through workshops, performances, and collaborations with local organizations, we contribute to the cultural vibrancy of Rishikesh. Additionally, by creating employment opportunities for dance instructors and attracting students and visitors to the area, our academy also supports local businesses and contributes to the economic growth of the community.
How does Rishikesh’s spiritual and natural ambiance influence the creative learning environment at your academy?
Ajay Rawat: Rishikesh’s spiritual and natural ambiance creates a unique and inspiring setting for our academy. Surrounded by the serene beauty of the Himalayas and the sacred Ganges River, students are encouraged to connect with nature and delve deeper into their creative instincts. Sometimes, we take our classes outside or conduct outdoor shoots to capture moments from nature and incorporate them into our dance routines. This integration of nature adds a special element to our creative learning environment. The spiritual energy of the region fosters a sense of mindfulness and inner exploration among our students, which greatly enhances their learning experience. By immersing themselves in the natural surroundings of Rishikesh, our students find inspiration and a deeper connection to their artistry.
What strategies do you use to nurture confidence and passion in your students, both as dancers and individuals?
Ajay Rawat: We focus on fostering a supportive and encouraging environment where students feel empowered to express themselves authentically. Through personalized feedback, goal-setting exercises, and regular performance opportunities, we help students build confidence in their abilities as dancers and individuals. Additionally, we emphasize the importance of self-care, mindfulness practices, and holistic development to nurture their passion for dance and overall well-being. Moreover, I personally believe that exposure is the most important thing for an artist to grow as a performer. We motivate our artists to participate in more and more competitions so that they have a better understanding of the stage and audience dynamics. We also provide training and encouragement for expressions, audience interaction, body language, and stage coverage, as these are integral aspects of a performance. By instilling these strategies, we aim to not only enhance our students’ dance skills but also build their confidence and passion for the art form.
What challenges and opportunities do you face in promoting dance as a career in Rishikesh compared to Mumbai?
Ajay Rawat: One of the main challenges in promoting dance as a career in Rishikesh is the limited exposure to the professional dance industry compared to Mumbai. Rishikesh, being a smaller city, lacks the abundance of opportunities available in a metropolitan city like Mumbai, where the dance industry is more established. It is easier for artists in Mumbai to pursue dance as a full-time career due to the plethora of opportunities and resources available. However, this challenge also presents an opportunity to cultivate a niche market for dance education focused on holistic development and artistic expression in Rishikesh. Through our workshops and initiatives, we strive to impart knowledge about career options in dance to the local community. We aim to bridge the gap by providing guidance and support to aspiring dancers, helping them understand the possibilities and pathways available to pursue dance as a career.
What are your future plans for your dance academy in Rishikesh, and how do you plan to continue enriching the lives of aspiring dancers and the community?
In the future, along with my choreographers Deepti Rawat and Sarthak Chaudhary, and our manager Vaishnavi Gwari, we aim to expand our academy’s offerings to include specialized workshops, collaborations with international artists, and immersive retreats that combine dance with mindfulness practices. Our goal is to provide comprehensive training and opportunities for our artists to succeed in their careers, whether they aspire to be part of reality shows or become choreographers themselves. Through our workshops and efforts, we aim to train, motivate, and educate young dancers about the career possibilities in dance if taken seriously and not just as a hobby.