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Grinnell Artists: Nandita Banik ’20

Nandita Banik ’20 performs with Ridhika Agrawal ’20 at the International Students Organization Culture Evening. Contributed.

By Quan Minh Tran

Nandita Banik ’20 started dancing at the age of two, and at the age of five and a half, she started to take lessons. From then, dancing has always been an important part of her life. She has experience in various genres, from Indian classical and Bollywood to hip hop, jazz and other contemporary dances. Her dance style, Banik said, includes a little bit of everything.

“Even though [Bollywood has] been coined as a dance form, it’s actually kind of like a fusion of different kinds of dance forms together. So it’s well-known to be uplifting and upbeat, but it has more variety to it,” she said.

So far at Grinnell, Banik has performed Bollywood dances in Diwali, the traditional Hindu festival of lights, and the International Student Organization’s (ISO) Cultural Evening. She is also part of the Grinnell Bollywood Dhamaka club.

During her first year, her interest in dance led Banik to acting. She was assistant manager for a student production and took Introduction to Acting with Leslie Delmenico, theater. She found that her background in dance informed her acting.

“Actually, I’d say the acting has a lot of influence from my dancing. When I go on stage to act, I think my dancing background has helped me to bring [out] my facial expression and to be confident on stage,” Banik said. 

Banik also expresses her love of dance through her YouTube dance videos. For her, dancing has always been a stress-reliever and in the past, it helped her get through difficult times. Banik started to make her YouTube videos when she found herself in a similarly stressful time in Grinnell.

“During spring semester my first year, I was really stressed [out] and [still] wasn’t used to Grinnell culture. So I started going to [the] Bucksbaum [Dance] Studio for fun and dancing on my own. And I made those videos and put [them] up for fun. I got good feedback so I just kept doing it,” she said.

She dances to a variety of songs, including Hindi music as well as American pop music. Her most recent video is of her dancing a form of Indian classical to “Young, Dumb and Broke” by Khalid. She makes note every time she finds a potential song that she may want to dance to or choreograph.

Banik acknowledges the difficulty of keeping such an independent project consistent while also keeping up with her other commitments. Sometimes it takes her up to a month to choreograph, dance, record and edit, reshooting until she is satisfied with her video. Nevertheless, the channel is building slowly but surely, and has been met with great praise. One of her recent videos, a cover on a song by a famous dancer, Kiran Jopale, received a shout out from the artist himself on Instagram.

“I picked up his choreography, filmed myself and put it up to my Instagram and just tagged him in it. I didn’t think he would actually see it but he did,” Banik said. “He was like ‘This is very cool and I want to put it on my story.’ So I sent him the video and he featured a link of it.”

Having grown up with dance, Banik cannot imagine a life without it. Still, she admits there was a time when dancing didn’t hold much value to her.

“I was going through the weird stages of transitioning and my body was changing and it was uncomfortable and I [hated] it every part of it. So between 12 and 15, I hated dancing,” she said. “But then I fell back in love with it. It’s like a part of my identity … that I couldn’t let go,”

While Banik has not had time to take dance lessons recently, she still finds opportunities to dance whenever she can. Currently, she is planning to join the big Bollywood group that performs at the ISO Cultural Evening every year. She is also working on two new choreographies, one of which involves dancing in high heels. While she admitted that she has not given much thought to dancing professionally, Banik smiled and added, “never say never.”

Nandita Banik ’20 performs with Ridhika Agrawal ’20 at the International Students Organization Culture Evening. Contributed.
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