Dance feels like the moment when my mind, body, heart and soul are all working in unison, says dancepreneur Jaya Karan
Meet Jaya Karan, a ‘dancepreneur’, who lives life just a little differently. Apart from running a successful dance studio venture, which is the first of its kind in Australia, she also runs a Bollywood dance company, is a physiotherapist and a mother of two! In 2017, Multicultural Arts Victoria nominated her as an Emerge Cultural Ambassador, recognising her leadership role in the cultural arts arena. The Indian Sun catches up with Jaya, to find out about her journey
★ Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Fijian Indian. I grew up in Fiji, came here at age 11 and lived in country Victoria all through my teens. I moved to Melbourne for university, where I studied physiotherapy.
★ When did your journey into dance begin?
I always loved dancing but never had any dance lessons as a child. I started dancing in my early 20s, performing with various Bollywood dance groups in Melbourne and Sydney. I felt that I’d left it too late to start any ‘proper’ dance lessons, so I only pursued it as a hobby. Ironically, it’s only after I had children, at age 32, that I decided to prioritise my inner passion. I started weekly Bharatanatyam classes in 2010, when I was mum to a newborn and a two-year old! I’ve been attending the same dance school for eight years now. Most people learn dance as a child and give it up as a teenager or adult. I started as an adult and find myself dancing more as time goes on.
Dance feels like the moment when my mind, body, heart and soul are all working in unison. I am blessed to be surrounded by my passion. I hope that it’s made me a better person.
★ What made you decide to start your Bollywood Dance Company, Sapphire Dance, seven years ago?
I was looking for a Bollywood dance group that was different, which drew upon some of the technical aspects of Indian classical dance. My sister-in-law Piyali, also felt the same way. She had graduated in Bharatanatyam, whereas most of my dance experience was in Bollywood. So, we decided to combine our strengths and start our own dance company. That was in 2011. We’ve been going strong for over seven years and still loving it.
★ What inspired you to start Studio J?
The thought of owning a dance studio had never crossed my mind, when out of the blue, someone asked if I wanted to lease their dance space. Once the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I realised that I had been ready for a larger dance challenge to present itself and suddenly here it was! I knew almost instantly what I was going to do with it. Being an adult dancer myself and seeing how life-changing it was for me, I wanted to create a space which encouraged adults to learn dance. And especially in the wide, varied and wonderful world of Indian dance.
★ Studio J is a year and a half old. Are there any highlights?
Every moment is a highlight. Nothing makes me happier than watching my students perform what they’ve learned over the weeks. All the various dance styles, from Bhangra and Bollywood to Kathak and Bharatanatyam, all under one roof. It’s simply awesome!
★ How do you balance your physiotherapy career, Sapphire Dance, Studio J, plus being a wife and mother?
I couldn’t do any of this without the love and support I get from my husband Shourov. He’s an entrepreneur, a free thinker, runs multiple businesses, a musician and just an amazing man all round. We definitely thrive off each other, and he understands what it’s like to do things differently. We’re both free to schedule things as it suits us, which makes it easier to juggle the school pick-up, dinner together and a bedtime story before I’m back on the computer or at the studio.
★ What inspires you to keep it going?
I’m not sure what inspires me exactly. It’s more like a compulsion, an urge to keep exploring my inner passion, the desire to offer something better, and seeing just how far I can go with it.
★ Being a Bollywood and Bharatanatyam dancer, do you have a favourite?
I’m a happy person by nature. And Bollywood dance is so light-hearted and fun, that I have forever connected with this style. Bharatanatyam is the opposite in many ways—it’s grounded, disciplined, structured, and traditional. Yet this dance form has transformed me as a dancer. It’s been eight years learning Bharatanatyam, and I’ve only just scratched the surface of it. I can’t be without either of these dance forms in my life!
★ What can we expect from Studio J in 2018?
I never make long-term plans. But my vision for Studio J is to keep on exploring dance, collaborating with the best teachers, and building a community around Indian dance which is supportive and encouraging. Studio J will be hosting its first ever Open Day on Sunday, 6 May, from 10am to 5pm. Half hourly mini workshops will be running throughout the day on including Bhangra, Bollywood, Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Bolly Heels, Bolly-Kathak, South Indian Street, and Bhangra HipHop! A great way to try out a variety of styles, check out our dance studio and meet the Studio J teachers! Follow our Facebook page for more information and updates.