Born in Kishangarh, Rajasthan, Aashita Biyani kickstarted her dance journey rather early in life with her mother’s nudge. She began dancing at the tender age of two and a half years. She recollects being sent on stage, whereupon Biyani cried and came back down. Since then, her mother has been a driving force in teaching Biyani Rajasthani folk dance. She distinctly remembers being corrected while dancing, her mother would say, “Gudia, jhhuko (sweetie, you have to bend more to be graceful).” While dancing Biyani would “cover the stage and fill it with her soul”. This has since been her mantra when dancing.
Later in life, Biyani pursued a Master of Arts, (M.A.), degree in India and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree from Eastern Michigan University in the United States of America. Before redeeming her passion for dancing, Biyani was fortunate to briefly work and explore opportunities at multiple health systems as a clinical application analyst, business systems analyst, and as a lead project manager. Her husband and his family always supported and encouraged all of Biyani’s life pursuits.
Biyani began teaching dance at the age of 13 and has been teaching and performing since then, till today. She plans on continuing to do so even in the future. The Indian SCENE spoke with Biyani about her inspiration and work so far.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.
The Indian SCENE: What do you enjoy about your profession?
Aashita Biyani: Dancing is pure joy for me, it culminates into a soulful feeling of trance. Every time I dance, teach, perform or just do it for self-fulfillment it multiplies because that love spreads and is infectious. In last 38 years of my life I have taught dance for 25 of this life journey and I hope to be healthy enough to dance, choreograph and teach forever! I didn’t have the resources to attend formal training in any classical form and that lead to my deep-rooted connection with Rajasthani folk and all its forms. My mom taught me as a child and measured miles so I could participate in competitions. I teach multiple dance forms, but my heart lies in Rajasthani folk and songs where I can apply my training.
IS: Why is it important for you to work with children?
AB: If you want to forget the worries, live in the moment and not feel judged, then they are your audience. I have danced with, taught, choreographed many many kids in the last 25 years and each time I feel I grew as a person from that experience.
IS: How do you give back to our society?
AB: My son was born almost 5 years ago, his birth filled us with even more gratefulness towards life. Many blessings may have come together to bring him to us, as Paulo Coelho puts it, “when you want something, all universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
We wanted to share this gratitude with the art of dance. Since then, we donated any harvest (minus overhead) from the dance classes I offered to help the community. We have been trying to donate to local areas such as, Flint water crisis, church schools, lunch programs at different shelters (with the help of HutKay Chats) and to institutes like St. Jude and Judson Center to name a few.
It has been rewarding and extremely satisfying to be able to give back. Due to the busyness of life I haven’t been teaching nearly as much as I would want to but hoping to press the pedal on it once my son is a bit older.
IS: Looking back, what would you do differently?
AB: I would go back to age 13 and record each and every song I choreographed, taught and performed. It’s a blank I would want to fill.
IS: What is the best advice you have received and from whom?
AB: There is no alternative to hard work. Even god helps only those who work hard. My brother says it to me almost every time we speak.
IS: What advice would you offer to our Indian-American youth who want to pursue a career in dancing?
AB: If you are pursuing a career in dancing, please don’t take breaks. I had many hiatuses; moving from one country to another, settling down, being pregnant, health issues, changing jobs. If it’s your career, it’s your priority. It’s my passion but could have been my career if at 25 I hadn’t thought I have plenty of time to chase it. You don’t, everything must start now!
IS: What or who inspires you?
AB: I draw inspiration to look up from those who beat all odds in life (physical or other) and to be humble from those who have it all.
IS: What is next for you?
AB: For now, I am focusing on continuing to dance, bringing Rajasthani folk to everyone who has love for dance and carving more time for choreography because that satiates my creative inner-self, as years progress.