If you’ve been to the studio on Thursday nights, you’ve probably heard cool Bollywood beats pouring from behind the curtain, courtesy of Minila, our hip-hop and Bollywood instructor. Check out our 10 questions for Minila, then head over to ShockraStudio.com to sign up for a class and get some face time with this lovely and spirited instructor!
1. How did you get your start dancing? What types of dance do you practice?
I pretty much started dancing when I started walking! But I began my training in dance at the very tender age of 6. It was my mom’s dream to train in dance and she wasn’t able to in her childhood so she was determined to fulfill her dream through me, her only daughter. She enrolled me Bharatanatyam, which is a classical dance style that has its origins in Southern India. The dance form is known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses. My primary training is in Bharatnatam but over the years I branched out and trained in other dance forms as well. I’ve studied ballet and flamenco as well as other Indian dance styles including Kathak, Bhangra and Gujarati folk dance as well as less structured dance styles like hip-hop and Bollywood.
2. What are your favorite things about hip-hop and Bollywood?
Both are wonderful, fun and adaptable to any level of dancer. Whether you are a professional and want to complete or perform, or a beginner who wants to learn the basics, or are somewhere in the middle, I can cater my style and class for you. The beauty of Bollywood is it pulls from and draws on so many different styles including classical Indian, hip-hop, jazz, Latin dance and belly dance and it really just depends on the song. And Bollywood is fun; the music is upbeat, energetic and happy. My students always leave with a smile on their face and enjoy the workout! The hip-hop class I teach at Shockra is catered to absolute beginners who have never taken a class and that itself is very rewarding. It’s a very unique class where I get to help people build rhythm and confidence.
3. How long have you been a teacher at Shockra?
I’ve been teaching for over 15 years and joined Shockra soon after I relocated to New York City. I started teaching at Shockra in February 2011.
4. Why do you enjoy teaching here?
The atmosphere of the studio is very warm and inviting. It is not at all intimidating and you can walk in as a dancer at any level and feel comfortable. And for that reason, we attract the right students and dancers.
5. Where can we find you when you’re not at Shockra (do you compete, perform, etc.)?
I do perform but spend more time teaching private classes as well as working on professional choreography.
6. What are your favorite songs to dance to right now?
Bollywood: Still loving Sheila Ki Jawani
Hip hop: Rihanna, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj
7. Do you have any advice for beginning dancers, or experienced dancers who are new to hip hop or Bollywood?
Just give it a try. If you’ve even given one single thought, it’s worth a try. You have nothing to lose and with the right instructor, practice and patience, I have seen so many people improve and grow. It’s more fun than you can imagine and you get the exercise and workout while you’re having fun
8. What types of things can students do outside of class to improve or help their dancing?
For beginners at my hip-hop class who are building rhythm and confidence, I say the most important thing is to try and dance as much as possible. Try and implement the things we learn in class. Dance while you get ready, at a club, at a wedding, in your bedroom in front of the mirror, anywhere! The more you do it, the better and more comfortable you will feel. For those taking Bollywood, practice at home if you get a chance and try going to a Bhangra party in NYC!
9. What is your favorite thing about New York?
There are too many things! But I’ll say this, if you make a sincere effort, people in New York will give you a chance. Everybody who is here has worked hard to get here and is still working hard to “make it.” And we’ve all been there. I love that people will take a chance on you. And all you can do is pay it forward. I also LOVE all the amazing food!!!
10. Tell us something unique about you that’s not related to dance.
I’ve lived in 4 really cool cities: Toronto, Chicago, London and now New York. I also spent a semester studying abroad in France. And I also took 2 6-month trips to India to study dance and yoga.