Introducing Ragini Bhajanka, dancer and choreographer, a truly inspiring, creative spirit whose graceful dance movements are a sight to gaze at, open mouthed and wonderstruck. TYS had the opportunity to meet with her at the Contemporary Arts Week 2014 in Delhi. Ragini is a senior teacher at The Danceworx Academy, trained in Jazz, contemporary and classical ballet. Her work in the performing arts field has been extensive. From Bollywood to International dance festivals, she has done it all and yet, she still believes she has more mountains to climb. Here’s a tiny glimpse into the way her mind works.
When did you start dancing?
I have always been dancing ever since I was 4 or 5. Dancing is something that comes naturally and has remained with me ever since I was a kid. In college I used to choreograph and perform. A friend of mine told me about Danceworx, the atmosphere and the buzz of the place got to me. And in 2001 I started training professionally.
Ragini had started teaching at a very young age. When she was in class 12, she had her own dance academy, with more than 200 students under her. Joining Danceworx made her realize that she had numerous areas to explore with her dancing. That learning was a process that never stopped and that she had miles to go.
What made you realize that Danceworx it is?
I had not decided when I first joined Danceworx. I just went with the flow. Dancing came so naturally to me. I’d listen to the music and I’d move to it and come up with choreographies. It was not something I consciously thought about. And Danceworx is not the final destination. My dream is to create my own production.
Do you have a particular dance form or style? Do you consider yourself a versatile dancer?
Yes, I do. I started with jazz. I trained in all forms of jazz be it street, funk, lyrical. When I joined Company (Danceworx) I was introduced to contemporary. And ballet has always been there. It has always been crucial for my training.
I have explored various styles. We have guest faculty coming in all the time. So we’ve done everything from Acro yoga to samba to funk. Funk jazz is what I am exploring currently. I don’t know how I started to explore this dance style, but now that I am, I plan to collaborate everything in it; to take it from a beginners level to an intermediate level which has all the vocabulary that ballet requires and physicality that funk requires. Something that people have not yet seen.
Who has mentored you in your dancing?
In the initial years I would say it was Ashley Lobo. He is the one person who has throughout inspired me. My base was formed completely by his mentoring. He has nurtured me from the very start. Over the years my dancing has been influenced by many other dancers. Over the past 2 years Yuko Harada, has had a great influence on me.
What has kept you motivated throughout your journey till now?
The fact that I kept going. I never paused. I kept pushing forward, through all the hardships I faced. It never occurred to me that I cannot make it in this field. I knew that dance, is it. If performing wouldn’t have worked out for me, it would be teaching. Taking dance to places where people did not know what dance is. The thought of giving up did not ever cross my mind.
Who has been your inspiration?
I would say my father. The realization hit me when I became independent. This is when I realized how similar I am to my father and I am so inspired by him. I am awestruck by the way he handled himself and us. The way he always supported his 4 daughters, stuck through thick and thin. I really wonder how he does it. I think my attitude, to always keep pushing forward and not looking back, is something that I get from him. I always strive for perfection, in my students and myself. This streak for perfection I have inherited from my mother and I draw my strength from my sisters.
What’s the one experience that has defined your journey till now?
Things rarely ever shock me. For anything to catch my attention, it has to be extraordinary. If I were to talk about an experience that really defines my journey, it would be my first choreography. It’s called “Passers By”. That choreography still surprises me. I don’t know how I came up with it and till date it has been my best. It was after this piece that I found a new love for choereography. It completely changed my perspective, I had found another way to showcase my creativity and seeing my piece on stage I realized, this is something I have to fall back on. A performers’ life is short lived. But guiding, teaching and choreographing are extremely close to my heart.
What were the challenges that you faced?
I think the fact that it took my family 8 years to get comfortable with the idea of dance being my career. They have always supported me. And keeping in mind the conservative background where I come from, my family is very open minded. They never stopped me from dancing but I believe they were a little concerned. But once they saw that I would not give up, they accepted it whole-heartedly.
What are your other areas of interest?
I love sports. When I was in college I used to play tennis. I played at the national level as well. Photography is newly developed passion. And writing. Anything that has a creative touch to it.
Any advice for other aspiring dancers?
My advice to other aspiring dancers would be that keep your base strong. Practice your base to such an extent that it becomes a second skin for you. Knowing your roots and a strong base will allow you to reach heights you have never even imagined. And never be closed to learning. There is always something new to learn from every experience and place.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I think about a thousand things in a day. My mind is constantly working and absorbing things around me. I keep looking for new ways to express my creativity, to draw out creativity from things that catch my eye. The one thing that I am very keen on is to create my own production. Something that would be performed once in a year or even in 6 months. I plan to collaborate with international dancers as well. I want to break boundaries as an artist. I want to explore areas that nobody ever has.