Kamna Arora is a professional dancer, and also the founder of YellowStripe Dance Academy. After being formally trained at Shiamak Davar's Academy in Mumbai, she joined the same as an instructor before establishing her own network in Delhi with her partner. Here's a sneak peak to her challenges, struggles and the ultimate will to follow her passion that has made her what she is today!
Walk us through your journey of being a professional dancer.
Although dance was always on my mind as an afterthought, my actual journey started out quite late. At 23, I had a regular 9 to 5 job here in India, after graduating from the University Of Nottingham in the UK. If I ever felt like dancing, I would just join a dance class somewhere. My choice of dancing as a career was literally an overnight thought! One night while sleeping, I said to myself that I want to pursue dancing. The very next day while scrolling through Facebook, I saw an ad from Shiamak Davar's dance academy which read that they were inducting people for their one year training program. I was in Delhi, and the audition was on the next day in Mumbai. I intercepted this as a sign. I flew to Mumbai the very next morning, gave the audition, and was selected! This is where my journey started. We were trained for 15 to 17 hours a day in different styles of dance. After the training was done, I was hired by the academy itself as an instructor.
What is it like to convert your passion into your profession? How difficult/easy is it to take an unconventional career call?
It is actually quite rocky road to take calls like this. Initially I was pretty confused about dancing on the returns it would give, on the stability of the job. It is not easy to convince your parents and most importantly yourself to push yourself out of your seemingly seamless life and go for a profession that is new for you. Don't let others' doubts deter you!
Inspite of frequently listening to remarks like 'dancing won't make you any money', 2 years ago I laid the foundation of YellowStripe Dance Academy with my partner Utsav and we have been doing decently well. Our road map was clear - we knew that we wanted to build a community of our own in Delhi, as there are only a handful of dance studios here. Stability, one that everyone around us keeps talking about, can only come when you rely on your skills and create multiple channels to express your expertise. What I have learnt from my professional experience is that if you go about the correct way of doing what you really want to do, there is close to nothing that can stop you.
What significance does fitness hold in your personal as well as professional life?
Fitness as a term can be quite subjective. For me, it means being healthy, having a good stamina and a good immunity. My profession blends fitness into my life quite seamlessly. Dancers require high energy levels and even higher endurance, which can only develop if you are fit. Even basics like sleeping on time, drinking more water etc. are extremely necessary when you are in a strenuous job like this.
True or False - dancing as a form of exercise works across genders and age groups.
101% true! Dance is an art form that has no barriers at all. It has so many styles and variations, you are sure to find one that you like. I have personally seen 2 year olds, pregnant women, 85 year olds dancing and very much killing it!
It works equally well as a fitness activity, as when you dance you keep your heart rate up, you build your stamina, you're breathing better, and exercising your muscles all at the same time! You do need to keep away from injuries at the same time, and keep your age into consideration while undergoing hardcore physical activities like these.
How positive a change has being a professional dancer brought to your overall health?
The changes I see are all positive. Especially now during the lockdown when we're always at home and lazing around, dancing is the only thing that is keeping my body alive. When I dance, I sleep better, I feel better. What I have also noticed is that for a lot of women on their menstrual cycles, their cramps get a lot better after dancing, and I myself am a fine example of that. Even a one hour dance class every day would make a person's body much healthier and fitter.
How beneficial is dancing to somebody with a weight loss goal? Can it substitute going to the gym/some other form of exercise?
I always suggest that for weight loss, dancing is appropriate but not completely adequate. I would still need to look after my sleep pattern, water intake, diet, and workout regularly in order ro be fit. It can be complemented with another physical activity, but if your goal is a hefty weight loss, you'd require a proper regimen. Dancing would of course, in the long run, shapen up your body but you would need to combine everything and work holistically.
Since dancing needs a lot of energy and agility, what does your diet consist of to ensure that you are always power -packed?
Initially I was pretty careless about my nutrition, but as I grew older I have realised that nutrition needs to be one point in order to have a good amount of energy. Meals should not be skipped or substituted at all. I have three proper meals in a day and a small snack in the evening. My breakfast is usually the biggest and the heaviest, consisting of fruits, eggs, milk, muesli and toast. I complement my lunch with a protein source like daal. Snacks like makhana, almonds, apples, coconut water can prove to be great sources of instant energy when you feel like your body is drained anytime in the day. Dinner for me is mostly lean protein like chicken along with veggies. Also, I consume 8-10 glasses of water a day as it is very important to stay hydrated
Favorite style of dance. One beginner friendly dance form.
My favourite dance style is dance, literally! I have been asked this question so much, but when people start watching my work, soon they realise that I perform almost every style of dance. Indo contemporary is very peaceful for one. I have also mix matched and fused a number of styles to create some of my own, and I enjoy each one of them equally.
For beginners, any style of dance in the beginner class should do. It is as simple as that! You can started with a ballet, jazz, salsa, Bollywood, anything on a beginner level.
What is your choice of clothing on a regular work day at the academy? What do you recommend your students to wear while undergoing such strenuous physical activity?
There are actually two kinds of work days for me - one is where I am teaching at the academy, and the other is when I'm doing some chores, meeting clients, or finalising some deals. On the latter, I'm usually wear jeans and shirts but other than that you will always spot me in dance wear. All my cupboards are filled with activewear clothing because that is all I wear!
For my students, sports shoes are an absolute necessity. Girls are advised to always wear sports bras. Track pants, shorts, and comfy t-shirts should work for everybody. Another aspect of comfortable clothing is that if it makes you feel and look good, your dance improves 100x. Different styles require different attitudes, and clothing appropriate is the first step towards feeling the style and executing it properly.
An advice to someone who is starting his/her fitness journey.
Complete honesty is needed before you start with anything. You should never skip the beginner levels, as going step by step is very important. You should know your body, what you react well to, and what your limits are. You should be very well researched before starting a fitness regimen. A holistic fitness journey would include things like a good sleep, a regular water intake, a good diet, being happy and being around people that make you happy.
If you're starting out, try reaching out to a trainer to guide you through the initial days and then you can take over. But most importantly, enjoy the journey!