When did you decide to be a part of NIDT? What were your expectations going into it?
I have actually been a part of NIDT from its inception, since I was already a senior company member of
The Danceworx, also founded by Ashley Lobo, NIDT’s Artistic Director. I was all of 18 and really passionate about making a career in dance, so it was a very big opportunity for me that I really didn’t want to miss. Ashley spoke to us about starting NIDT and the commitment towards our training to be a professional and he specifically said ‘Those who can’t provide that commitment right now, it’s okay, your time will come. Don’t be so hard on yourself, especially you, Alisha’. I was very upset because I remember being in junior college and barely attending since I was always training, but I couldn’t bunk lectures anymore in Degree College. In fact, my principal called and told me ‘Unless you’re dancing for the college, we can’t excuse you, even if you’re representing the country in dance’. So I switched to Correspondence so I could dance and complete my education. This allowed me to pursue something my college didn’t, and I now have a double major in English Literature and Sociology. I figured out a way for me to get the best of both worlds.
What did you enjoy (and/or not enjoy) the most about performing on stage?
I truly believe I am born to dance. Since I was very little, the stage has felt like home and it’s where I feel at utmost peace. I love that you rehearse so hard for hours every day for that one minute/hour of a performance and that’s it. You rehearse your emotions, mind, and body to a place where they’re so synergized that you can almost have an outer body experience that will not repeat itself the exact same way ever again. I can express myself very comfortably on stage. I love people and connecting with them. I had a very lonely childhood but ironically, that really helped me as an artist. It made me what I can call a ‘professional observer’. I love playing different characters and I had my entire childhood to collect different character references from in my head.
Art gives you that freedom. Dancing on stage always made me feel like I’m communicating my feelings with people and I live for that connect on stage because I didn’t get to experience that in real life. I didn’t necessarily grow up around what I can call ‘happy people’ and hence wasn’t one. But whenever I’m on stage the blessing of being able to share the joy of performing with the audience is something that makes me feel like I’m living my true purpose.
What were some of the main struggles you faced being the lead dancer of NIDT, and how did you overcome them?
Being a part of a professional company has it’s pros and cons. While I had the luxury of being a Principal Dancer, a position most dancers envy, I also had the responsibilities. I was very young, and to deliver and execute these responsibilities at a certain level took a lot from me, emotionally, physically, and spiritually; sometimes, even when I had nothing left to offer. However, every experience made me who I am and I wouldn’t trade a day of the struggle because it gave me as much as it took, if not more. Honestly, the biggest struggle for me was emotional discipline. While I am a very hard worker, like most artists, I get bored very easily and have very wide-ranging mood swings. If given the freedom to explore and go with what I feel, I will change my approach too many times. But when you’re a part of a set curriculum, and have to find your strength and expression within that curriculum, the real challenge is not just to keep yourself motivated to do the same thing with passion and intention everyday. It is also to reinvent it for yourself and the audience so the freshness is maintained no matter how many times you perform. I would say that apart from experience, that’s also one of the major skills that separates an amateur from a professional. It’s been a beautiful but really challenging journey for me with NIDT. It has definitely made me learn a whole lot I didn’t even know existed or was possible to learn about. It’s truly a one of a kind experience and I only braved through it because I had some really amazing teachers, who stood by, guided, comforted, and believed in me. Had it not been for them, I don’t think I would be the dancer I am today or the dancer I aspire to be.