Ballet to Bharatanatyam

Nikolina Nikoleski came to India when she was just a couple years shy of 30. The ballet dancer from Croatia — she’d trained at the Folkwang Hochschule Essen in Germany — had won a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) to expand her practice.

When she arrived in 2004, she was to learn Bharatanatyam. For six years she would train under noted exponent and Padma Bhushan awardee Saroja Vaidyanathan, who has a school in the Qutab Institutional Area. A student whose discipline was informed by her years with ballet, Nikolina was ready for an arangetram within a year. People usually take close to eight.

She struck the conservative route though, performing only in April 2010, when she was closing out her scholarship period. But Nikolina hasn’t left India since.

Teaching at the Lycée Français de Delhi, the Japanese School, and later also hosting a number of workshops, Nikolina soon decided to start a dance school of her own in Delhi. The Nikolina Nikoleski Academy, which began in 2013 is still going strong. Currently, they’ve opened registrations for classes for all those who’re interested: children, young adults, and seniors.

“In Delhi there’s still this perception that dance is for girls and not boys,” says Nikolina, who is keen to break this stereotype. “We are starting classes especially for boys and senior dancers after the summer holidays,” she says.

The idea is that movement is for everyone. In keeping with this and her training, Nikolina’s academy will be offering beginner classes in both ballet and Bharatanatyam, with a focus on dance-fitness and what she calls “creative social dance for seniors”. This means her academy will see a whole range of dancers, ranging from a 3-year-old to someone 55 and over.

Nikolina is sticking her guns with her school, especially buoyed by a “transformation” she’s witnessed from when she arrived. “There was no foreign dance companies touring when I first came. In the last 7-8 years, the interest has grown, and so many dance schools have been opening,” she says of the interest in Western art forms like ballet. But what she is concerned about is indiscreet forms of fusion.

“I hope ballet and Bharatanatyam don’t mix,” she says. “If you’re not well-versed in either, you can bastardise the form. I hope interface will not happen anytime soon,” says Nikolina who still frequently collaborates with and learns from her gurus from her ICCR days.

Classes for 2019/2020 will begin on 5th August, 2019, and will be held at the Nizamuddin East community center and at Vasant Vihar Passion studio. To register, email nikolinanikoleskidanceacademy@gmail.com


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