Conversation with an extremely versatile dancer: Nikita Patel, lovingly known as Niki Patel

niki patel

Nikita Patel, lovingly known as Niki Patel has now become a name synonymous with Spirit of Dance Academy which has numerous dance classes running all over Lower Mainland. Niki Patel is one of the most versatile dancers that you would see in Greater Vancouver Area, and I had the pleasure of interviewing this sweet, kind and dedicated artist just before the annual event Namaste Canada.

niki patel dance pose
Niki Patel of Spirit of Dance Academy

Originally trained from the tender age of three in Kuchipudi Classical dance form, Niki Patel has evolved into a dedicated, flawless, and beautiful artist expanding her wings into performing and teaching Garba folk dance of Gujarat and Bollywood style dance.

In this interview with ATI VANCOUVER, Niki talks about her journey, growth and evolvement as an artist. Niki Patel lives in Maple Ridge with her husband Hardik Patel, son Dhyan Patel and daughter Aadhya Patel.

Q. Niki, could you please let the readers know about your onset in this journey of Kuchipudi Dance and other dance forms?

A. My mother introduced me to Kuchipudi Dance at the te der age of 3. She encouraged me to learn this dance under the guidance of Smt. Rita Choksi in Surat, where I was born and brought up. Ritaben not only taught me how to dance a difficult Indian classical dance but she knowingly and unknowingly inculcated in me sense of discipline, commitment and dedication through dance.

Q. As an artist what did you learn from a young age after being exposed to learning a form of Indian Classical Dance?

A. From a very young age I started learning that dance not only makes me physically fit and agile but it also helps me in my intellectual growth, it teaches me to focus better, to achieve a meditation like experience same as one would gain from practicing Yoga. With dance, specially with Kuchipudi dance I can make each and every muscle of my body get exercise, including facial muscles which you generally don’t experience in many other dance forms. I feel fortunate to have learned and embraced an art that makes me feel complete, evolved and sync with elements of nature. As dance can put you in trans like condition you can actually experience a connection with what some people call as God, or Creator or Oversoul, hence dance has given me spiritual benefits too.

Q. Besides personal benefits what other benefits do you seek from being an artist or a dancer?

A. In my opinion dance not only contributes to your physical well being, intellectual growth and spiritual enhancement but also brings people together as a community. It has immense power to connect people from all walks of life. Many people see dance as only temporary entertainment but it infact has the power to convey strong social messages, uplift the society beyond entertainment, bring people together and form a sense of community in the society.

Q. Would you like to mention any special achievements or accolades you might have won in your journey as a dancer?

A. I absolutely feel proud of the fact that my guru Ms. Ritaben Choksi let me perform with her guru Smt. Smitaben Shastri. We dancers achieved a remarkable feat of thousands of Kuchipudi dancers dancing together and we enlisted our name in Guinness Book of World Records by doing so. This endeavour was the first of its kind in the world history. I was also selected after a series of auditions and rigorous selection process to represent Gujarat in the National Level Classical Dance competition. Having the opportunity to represent Gujarat made me humble and proud both together. Here I would specifically like to mention and express gratitude to my husband and in-laws for always standing by me and supporting me to grow as an artist. I have choreographed dance performance for the Dabangg Tour where my students performed with Salman Khan on stage. I had choreographed the stage performance both in Toronto and Vancouver. I have choreographed dance for various artists’ stage performances including Shanker Mahadevan and KK.

Q. Could you please elaborate about your journey as an artist in Metro Vancouver area?

A. I moved to Vancouver in September 2017, and I started performing Kuchipudi and Bollywood dance in various community centres on various occasions like Diwali and Holi. My very first public performance in Vancouver area was for India Cultural Association of Vancouver aka ICA Vancouver at their Diwali event which took place at Renfrew Community Centre in Vancouver in October 2017. People soon started noticing that I am not only a dedicated classical dancer but also a passionate Bollywood and folk dance performer. I love teaching dance. I want the children and youth here to derive same benefits from dance as I have since many many years. With this purpose in mind I started teaching dance in Burnaby, Vancouver and Maple Ridge. I chose the name ‘Spirit of Dance’ for my academy with the sole purpose of making both children and adults experience the essence of learning and performing dance.

Q. When people see Niki Patel, they see a successful dance artist and dance teacher. What are the challenges that this successful woman has faced in Metro Vancouver that we as people miss seeing?

A. The biggest challenge I see is in the approach of students and parents when it comes to learning Bollywood dance or any dance form. They shy away from ‘structured learning’ they often want teachers to focus on ‘entertainment’ value of dancing. I want parents and other adult dancers to realize that you can’t be an artist without learning and mastering the basics, without learning the technicality of dance. Another major challenge I face is that people give dance a secondary importance way far behind from work and academics since it’s an intangible skill. Running dance academy comes with a major financial cost. Since many parents and other adults see it only as an intangible art they hesitate to contribute more freely from finance point of view. The artists here, not only dancers but all other artists find themselves in a financial crunch since art does not get same importance as academics or a better paying job.

Q. When did you first perform at Namaste Canada? Can you tell us more about your association with Namaste Canada?

A. Namaste Canada is the biggest culture event organized by the Consulate General of India, Vancouver which annually takes place around the long weekend in September. The students of Spirit of Dance Academy and I have been performing regularly every year in Namaste Canada since 2018. We have always cleared selection and audition process. In 2021-2022 we have represented Gujarat at Namaste Canada

Q. Any message that you would like to give to your readers?

A. I would like to say that dance is not just for entertainment. Don’t look at it and measure it with just one yardstick- value as entertainment. Dance is rather an instrument for your complete evolvement and growth. Please try to give dance as much importance as your job, work, school etc. Dance is something that transcends all the barriers of language, religion, status, gender etc. Embrace dance and see for yourself how it helps you grow as an individual.

group dance
Image Credit: Peter Eijsberg Photography

spirit of dance group

If you are interested in connecting with Niki Patel of Spirit of Dance Academy, please visit her website or follow her on social media: Facebook, Instagram.


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Sonal Joshi Nagawkar

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