Jigyasa Sharma- Founder StepKraft Dance Company
Brief introduction about yourself
“I have been dancing and teaching, professionally, since my school days. I’ve been fortunate enough to have learned the art from the ‘Guru’ himself – Shiamak and have been an Instructor & Performer in his prestigious dance company. I possess knowledge of different dance genre like Hip hop, Contemporary, Salsa, Jazz, Street Funk, Bollywood, Rock N Roll, etc. I’m also a licensed Zumba Fitness Instructor (ZIN) and a Reebok Certified Trainer. Have taught extensively all over India, been a part of eventful shows for organizations like Femina, NDTV, Commonwealth Games, Maruti Suzuki, Encore Capital Group, etc and have been trained under the guidance of many celebrated international choreographers.
I’m educated too! Have a Bachelor’s degree in Science and Master’s degree in Journalism. Also had the privilege of working with The Times of India.”
What is life to you? When did it actually began, please give us a short background?
Take it as a cliché, but life is a gift! For me, it’s about living in the moment, staying on toes and keeping it unpredictable, so that it can surprise me. Just when I planned to become a doctor, life surprised me by giving me a great career in dance, at a very young age. When I joined journalism, life lured me with plenty of related opportunities. But after having almost everything & having done so much, there was still a commotion within. Being steady scares me. I remember, I was in the car with my friend Dhananjay (now Co-Founder at StepKraft) and as soon as we hit brakes on the red light I blurted, “That’s it. I don’t think I am made for a 9 to 5 job. I need to dance!” And since then, I’m on this unpredictable journey with StepKraft. It has been 3 years but every day is a new day here. Life is still surprising me!
Have you faced any difficulty while choosing the least heard profession? Did everyone support you in your decision of setting up your own dance and fitness brand or were you questioned and criticized?
Well, it’s not the profession; anything new that you start is challenging. It’s like the jitters you feel before going on stage. It’s like the train of thoughts that run before getting married. Yes, there were speculations about dance being a short-span career, ME being too young to pull things off, there was a lack of resources, zero support from (who we thought were) friends, etc. It was a reality-check!
I was literally stepping into oblivion. Amidst the chaos, the only support I had was of Dhananjay & my family. They believed in my strengths and agreed to invest in my idea, and by the way, we started with only 10,000/- as a starting capital, now talking six-figures. Let me tell you, it’s very easy to sit back and be criticized, but it takes a lot more than mere motivation to emerge through, in spite of all odds. It’s passion! It never fails! And that’s what I believe in.
Tell us something about your work
So I lead a dual life of being an entrepreneur and an artist. It’s the most volatile combination for a profession as both of them demand 100% attention from me. I run a Dance Company which caters to a variety of dance-related services (including Corporate Workshops, Events, Weddings, School Programs, Regular Classes, etc) and requires skill-sets like Communication, Branding, Marketing, PR, Photoshop, Digital Media, etc. For me it’s important to have intimate knowledge of everything related to my brand to gauge the scope of improvement & to maintain the quality standards we’ve set for our company.
My mind is always working towards building my brand but I make sure to balance the creative aspect too. I have my own practice sessions where I polish my creative skills like dancing & choreography. People have often called me the Power House! When I’m taking a class, my job is to make the students happy, make them get better at their steps and give them an overall exhilarating experience. I keep myself updated with the latest of everything that’s related to dance – be it music, choreography, dance styles, slangs, etc.
Are your students only youngsters or do they come from varied background and age groups?
Oh, almost every age group and background! Usually, for classes, we have people from 4 to 40 year olds belonging to varied backgrounds – from students, home-makers, and budding entrepreneurs to chartered accountants, doctors, and businessmen – having different reasons to dance. But when we do wedding choreographies, we also get opportunities to make the young-at-heart dadas & dadis dance.
Which is the happiest moment of your job so far? Tell us one thing that you don’t like about your career.
This could sound like the simplest thing, but to me, little things make the fondest memories. When I see my students dancing with so much zeal, it makes me happy, when I see them tired but smiling after the class, it makes me happy, a simple Thank You after the class has so much power that I couldn’t ask for any better job in the world. I remember a student once told me, those words struck me like a chord, “Earlier I used to come to the class for dance, but now I come to learn from you.” After all this, there is nothing I dislike about my career. I take everything that matters positively and ignore the rest.
What should one initially expect if he/she decides to become a Dance/Zumba Instructor? How is your average work day?
Expectation comes later on when you start taking a class. Before that is a lot of hard work. For anyone to be a dance and/or fitness instructor, it’s important to be professionally trained and well-practiced. If you don’t have good knowledge of your field it’s going to be very tough. An instructor has to have a lot of patience.
Initially, there might be a lot of bumps in terms of the students not turning up, students not getting the steps, getting less pay, not being able to control the class, etc. but you just have to keep yourself together, stand strong and work even harder. Patience & positivity is the key and trust me if you’re good at your work then the reward will follow.
I begin my day with a little family time (I can’t stay away from them); little chirpings from my niece & nephew to wake up with. Then I check my tasks for the day which include everything from approving designs, to planning classes/workshops, taking decisions on projects, meeting prospective clients, studio maintenance, etc followed by working on the creative for classes which include making a syllabus for the batch structure, deciding songs, creating choreography according to the level of the class and after dancing my heart out and finishing classes on a positive note, I call it a day. Before I sleep I plan the next day’s tasks in advance.
Who inspired you to the tremendous amount of work you are doing?
I am dancing since my childhood. While it was just a hobby, my mother saw my talent and enrolled me in the most sought after (and then unaffordable) dance classes – Shiamak Davar’s Institute for the Performing Arts. Once in class, I took every word of my instructors’ as Holy Bible.
I would write down techniques, notes, etc, be revised in the head before the next class and never took a second for granted (something I see lacking in a lot of students these days). When I first saw Shiamak, the man who built his entire dance empire, I was amazed. Every word of him is inspiring and I’m thankful for all his teachings that motivated me to be a better dancer, moreover, a teacher.
Apart from him, I am completely blown by this generation following their hearts & making it big. Not only in dance & fitness but also other fields like fashion, food, art, lifestyle, etc which were considered as offbeat career options a while back, are now becoming mainstream choices. It’s very inspiring to see the fire that youngsters have today.
According to you, what are the top three essential skills needed to be successful?
‘Believing in yourself, being consistent and honest’ are the driving forces, having good ‘people’s skill’ is the backbone and ‘dealing with the ups & downs in the journey gracefully’ is the essence required to succeed in the long run.
How have you managed the work-life balance and has the family been supportive?
To escape the idea of asking myself this question 10 years down the line, I made dance my career. Dance is my life and I turned it into my work. I’m living my passion! The real challenge, however, would come post marriage. There will be a new wing of responsibilities.
But I am 200% determined to balance it all out. And yes, my family has been extremely supportive of my decisions (however crazy they are) all throughout. They’ve seen my passion and confidence and maybe not in my immediate actions, but in my head they know I’m right.
What can best empower the women of India– education, politics or business?
I think empowerment comes from within. If women of India are confident, self-driven and respectful towards others & themselves, then education, politics, business, or fashion will only give them the direction to excel. So before anything, self-belief and a sense to do something is important.