Raissa Simpson’s PUSH Dance Company Builds Vibrant Contemporary Dances To Gain A Deeper Understanding Of The Challenges Attributed To Mixed Heritage.

In Conversation with Niharika Mohanty

PUSH Dance Company is proud to present choreography by Niharika Mohanty on Wednesday October 14, 2020 LIVE at 6 PM. Photo by RJ Muna.

This Fall, join us for PUSHfest Global, our virtual dance festival featuring 18 choreographers from the Bay Area and beyond. From October 7 through November 18, each Wednesday evening at 6 PM meet a new group of PUSHfest Artists for dynamic conversations about dance and activism. | Tickets & More Here

Tell us a little bit about your dance background.
I started learning the Indian classical dance style, Odissi, from age 5, but it was only when I trained from the legendary maestro, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, at 19 years old, that I really fell in love with Odissi. While I was raised in Canada, I traveled to India quite a few times for many months at a time, several hours a day to train and learn the very nuanced style of Guru Mohapatra, one of the key re-constructors of Odissi. Prior to his demise, he gave me his blessings to have his institution over here, his second establishment in the world, and Guru Shradha was born. While I have performed extensively as a solo artist, today, I am delighted to present the Guru Shradha Ensemble in many festivals too. My work as a choreographer also continues in Guru Shradha.

Photo by Amitava Sarkar

If you hadn’t chosen this career, what might you have been doing instead?
Few possibilities existed for me: Computer Programmer, Mathematician, Teacher, Web/Graphic designer, since I have trained in all these fields and could have continued working in them. I finally chose as my career to live out my dream as a dancer, dance teacher, and choreographer.

What does your work respond to or activate, within this world or within yourself?
Light represents warmth, like the warmth we feel on a sunny day, and also goodness, hope and happiness. Light also has a deeper meaning. It is illuminating or enlightening, taking one from ignorance to knowledge and bliss. Therefore, offering light is very meaningful, as it is a warm offering of all these things to all people (the audience).

What advice would you pass on to an aspiring choreographer?
Find yourself in your genre and discover the messages you would like to relay through your choreography. In the journey of life, one has to delve deep into a dance genre and really feel it from within, and once you are ready to convey what is meaningful to you, you will be set to choreograph. It’s like being able to write a great story only after having the full grasp of the language in which you are conveying it. I also love to feel the music, which guides me.

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A prominent disciple of Indian dance legend, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Niharika Mohanty is the Founder-Director of Guru Shradha, a premier institution. As a choreographer, Niharika has worked on several productions/pieces, and relishes working on cross-cultural projects uniting communities, for which she was honored as a Mosaic Silicon Valley Fellow.