International Artist Nayanika Vyas
International Spotlight Session
As an artist, I create with the goal of building community. To that end, I have developed several initiatives that connect dancers and choreographers with audiences and with each other. The Spotlight Sessions present a peek into the lives, processes, and motivations of individual artists through interviews, short feature articles, previews, and capsule reviews. In this newest section, we welcome international artists who have come to work and create in NYC with an interest in how they have been shaped by the community and how their unique contributions are adding to the rich tapestry that is the NYC dance scene. I hope you enjoy getting to know these talented individuals as much as I have, and continue to follow them on their creative paths.
Meet international artist Nayanika Vyas
Nayanika Vyas was born in New Delhi, India and began dancing at the age of 5. Being from India where western dance is an unconventional career, she came to the US to attend college and graduated from The University of the Arts with a BFA in Dance and a Minor in Business. Nayanika was awarded the International Presidential as well as the Dean’s Scholarship for all four years of her education at The University of the Arts. Trained in classical ballet, Indian contemporary, modern and jazz she has performed in works set by Katie Swords Thurman, Jesse Zaritt, Gary Jeter, Sidra Bell, Wayne St. David, and Jimena Paz.
Bold and commanding, Nayanika Vyas takes the stage, her legs sweeping the floor in circular motions. Her arms push the air away in patient yet determined defiance. Her expansive upper back supports her long arms as they fold and unfold like wings- graceful, powerful, purposeful. Like all birds of prey, Vyas’ delicate beauty cannot be mistaken for weakness. A grounded mover, her connection to the earth provides freedom to her limbs and torso which express pride and joy with every movement.
Trained in ballet, modern, contemporary and jazz, unconventional in her native India, Vyas grew up listening to people telling her to “pick a career that was better recognized, better paid, better respected or just… “better.”
However the boldness she exudes on stage is not limited to her dancing. Realizing that in order to pursue her career goals she would need to further her education in the United States, and unable to attend any live auditions at US universities because of the distance, Vyas rehearsed and recorded videos of herself doing various classes in Delhi. She was soon granted acceptance to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a four year scholarship. Vyas was the first native Indian in her University to pursue an education in Dance, her determination hinting at her performance career to come.
After graduation, Vyas came to New York City and auditioned for almost fifty companies before being offered a contract with Bloodline Dance Theater. Choosing the road less traveled, Vyas enhances our vibrant dance community with her determination and grace. We look forward to seeing her unique contributions continue.
In Her Own Words
Motion By Degrees: Where are you from and how did your artistic journey begin?
Nayanika Vyas: I was born and raised in New Delhi, India. As a young girl, I dreamed of becoming a professional dancer one day. Spotlight on, dancing centre stage with joy coursing through my veins, every movement a thrilling experience. I have heard it said that when you dream with your eyes open, there is no challenge you cannot overcome, there is no door that will not open. As I grew older, this dream gained clarity and focus. Like a magnet, it drew me, compelled me. I started dancing when my mom enrolled me in a jazz dance class when I was five years old. She thought it would be a great extracurricular hobby for me to pursue alongside school. Soon after, I performed on stage in my first show which is when my love for dance began. Little did she know that it was the beginning of my artistic journey that I would turn into a full time job!
MBD: What is your drive as an artist? What is it that you hope to express/contribute to the world through dance?
NV: I am driven by the invigorating freedom that I experience in movement. I feel extremely fortunate to have had that outlet growing up. I want to make dance accessible and provide that resource to more people, and have them encounter the beautiful art of storytelling that dance manifests.
MBD: How has coming to NYC influenced you as an artist? What opportunities have been the most beneficial to you or how have they shaped your artistic path?
NV: Arriving in NYC and auditioning for almost 50 companies, facing rejection day after day was a bitter pill. The city gave me a harsh first hand experience about strength and resilience, which shaped me into someone who can fight for her dream relentlessly. I feel very fortunate to have worked with choreographers who helped shape my artistic path and reminded me of my purpose. One of the companies I perform and teach with is an Indian dance company called Ajna. Even though India is home to some of the most renowned classical styles of dancing, I mostly focused on Ballet and Jazz growing up. Working with Ajna in the past year has encouraged me to bring my culture and roots to this country and collaborate more with South Asian artists.
MBD: What has been your biggest challenge and your proudest moment?
NV: My biggest challenge was not giving up and succumbing to my insecurities when I took a leap of faith and moved to New York. It was extremely hard to say the least. Hard to wake up everyday and be ready for your lifelong dance training to be judged based on one audition, and praying that it would be the start of your career. Also, reminding myself of what I bring to the table while standing in a room saturated with women that look contrastingly different than I do- that can be exhausting. Persistence held my hand as I continued to audition, and my efforts eventually paid off when I performed with Bloodline Dance Theater last Fall. I danced in their production called ‘Theories and Apologies’ on World Aids Day in December. I remember the thrilling feeling of pride and joy coursing through my veins as I signed my first professional contract!
MBD: What projects are you currently working on?
NV: I recently started working with a modern dance company called ModArts. The company consists of an amazing community of artists and I really look forward to performing with them in our upcoming shows scheduled later this year. I also teach Arts in Education and After School residencies for organisations like DMF Youth and Young Dancers in Repertory, where I teach dance and mentor elementary school students in public schools. I’m excited about my upcoming collaborations with choreographers like Sarah Horne and Preya Patel respectively, where we will create work and support immigrant artists much like myself.
MBD: Where do you see yourself artistically in 5 years?
NV: I want to use dance as a platform to make work about subjects that matter to me. Art is an extremely powerful tool that can change and heal people's lives. I want to share that across the world- whether it’s in the US or in India- and do my part in repaying the training and knowledge I have learned from the masters of this craft.
Want to see Nayanika in action?
Check her out on Instagram at @nayanikavyas or on her website