As a child Pinky Sapkota couldn’t dance well but she loved it so much that she decided she would never give up. To give wings to her dreams she started learning belly dancing in 2013 and became a fulltime dancer in 2017. “I flew to Delhi and got enrolled in Banjara School of Dance,” Pinky recalls. Grabbing one opportunity after another, she finally made it to some famous Indian shows like ‘Nach Baliye’. Ever since she has been associated with various dance academies.
Pinky has recently started her own venture Bellydance Nepal. To talk more about her journey, WOW’s Anushka Shrestha catches up with her.
What got you into belly dancing?
My sister and I used to follow a show on television about belly dance workouts. After schooling, I joined the Salsa Dance Academy in Baluwatar. Then I watched Meher Malik perform in India’s Got Talent which really drew me towards belly dancing not only because of the way it looked but also the history it had. Meher had mentioned that it was a gift from a mother to a daughter to prepare her womb to give birth to a child; that is how this dance form had transferred from generation to generation. This thing really got to me after which I started researching about belly dancing. And I started watching more of Meher’s videos.
We try to create an environment where no one is being judged. I always tell my students not to judge anyone but to judge oneself by comparing your growth from the first class.
Then in 2012, Binayak Shrestha from Salsa Dance Academy had organised a salsa festival in which Meher had come to Nepal to do a workshop and to perform. But I couldn’t attend the workshop because I met with an accident and was on bed rest. However, I couldn’t stop myself from going and seeing her perform. That is when I knew I had to learn this form of dance.
In 2013, I went to Delhi to learn from her school, Banjara School of Dance. It was a pretty long procedure to convince my parents and make them understand how I felt about belly dancing because I was already studying Interior Design which was an expensive course for my Bachelors and I had to tell them that I wanted to switch from interior design to dance. After talking to one of my brother-in-laws and my cousin sister, I joined an entrepreneur and communication workshop so that I could convince my parents and that’s it!
What was your experience with ‘Nach Baliye’?
It was an amazing show. We had teamed up with Mohit Sehgal and Sanaya Irani. We had been there for the promotion of Dance Plus season two. Having said that, there are always pros and cons to everything. The way they show belly dancing on television is very different from how we show it. To find the right balance to not make it look vulgar while showing this art form was quite tough. Fortunately, our choreographer was Nishant Bhat with whom we had already worked before so he knew us well and helped us achieve that balance. Even Sanaya used to stay up till one or two at night to practice with us. She was very hard working. There was no body shaming or anything as such. Obviously, there will be people who give negative comments but the industry was very welcoming.
Tell us something about Bellymandu
Bellymandu was a workshop that I and my brother-in-law conducted. It was a workshop in which I really wanted to introduce Banjara School of Dance and belly dancing in Nepal. It was a very successful event. We had 80-85 students. We also had Hafla which means party in Egypt. It is a casual gathering where students could bring one or two family members or friends and we showcased what they had learnt just to encourage them. That was when belly dancing was properly introduced in Nepal. Of course there were people who had been practicing it but I think we were the first ones to do such a successful event.
When did you open your studio, Bellydance Nepal?
Bellydance Nepal was registered in 2017 itself which was the year I came back from Delhi. But I was taking classes in other studios because people didn’t know me well then. If I had my own studio I would also have to pay for it. So, I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford the rent for the studio then. Even the number of my students was low. But I didn’t stop taking classes. It was like a test of my patience level.
I introduced my own studio this Baisakh in Thapagaun, New Baneshwor but due to lockdown we haven’t been able to operate physically. However, I am taking online classes. I hope the situation of the country gets better so that I can go back to my studio and start dancing with my students.
Are your classes open to men and older people?
We welcome all kinds of people. It has always been a pleasure to teach men. Despite the fact that the dance form is feminine, the way they practice is a treat to watch because it is difficult for them comparatively as they do not have a natural instinct for it. But, to see how they adapt is beautiful. I also have few elderly people who learn from me and they say my classes are really refreshing. We try to create an environment where no one is being judged. I always tell my students not to judge anyone but to judge yourself by comparing your growth from the first class. I feel communication is very important between the instructor and the students because if I don’t create the environment in which they can come to me and open up about how they are feeling in the classes I will never get genuine feedback. To see our students grow, we have to have good communication with them. And watching them grow, we as teachers will also get to learn new things from them.
It is said that belly dancing helps heal women’s reproductive system. Your thoughts.
Belly dancing was a ritual in which a mother used to pass this dance form to her daughter for her to prepare the womb to give birth to a child. There are some movements which will exercise the internal muscles. Even the reproductive system gets exercised. There is one very common exercise that we do which is called ‘contraction expansion’. During the exercise, the vault of vagina opens and contracts. This helps while giving birth as we have to push for the vault to open. So, for the reproductive part, it is very helpful. More than external, it is an internal dance form in which we use a lot of muscles.
Personally speaking, I used to have a very bad back pain, even my menstruation cycle wasn’t regular but due to belly dancing, I rarely get such pains.