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Interview: Jikaria Sisters Aim To Increase South Asian American Representation In Dance

Jikaria Sisters

Due to COVID-19, everyone is facing isolation blues. In this scenario, keeping ourselves entertained and having fun has been a challenge. To beat the boredom, we try our hands at everything from painting, cooking to working out. But do you feel like tapping your feet during the lockdown? Then you should check out the Jikaria Sisters.

The trio – Omika, Rishika and Aashika, are the new dancing sensation with the fusion dance videos. Having launched their account in March 2020, these sisters are made it big within a few months. With 380.1K followers, they have garnered around 4.8M likes on TikTok. Hailing from New York, these Gujrati sisters are deeply rooted in their culture which is reflected in their dance videos.

(On June 29, 2020 the Govt. of India decided to block 59 apps, including TikTok.)

Aashika is trained in Horton and Graham, Rishika has danced on both the competitive Garba-Raas and Bhangra teams. Omika is trained as a semi-professional salsa dancer. They talk to SheThePeople about why they chose TikTok as a platform, their love for dance, their Indian and American identities and much more.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAQUvcZFIIi/

Why did you decide to take up dancing as a subject for your Tik Tok videos?

Before coming back home to New York for quarantine, Omika was in Hanover, New Hampshire, at business school, and Rishika and Aashika were in Atlanta, Georgia, at college. We grew up dancing with each other and the three of us haven’t been home together for ten years. We were excited to be back home together and were looking for any reason to dance together again. Within our first week back home, we decided to make a couple of TikTok videos for fun. Within just a few weeks, our videos started to gain traction very quickly. As we have gained supporters, our drive to keep creating has grown. As uncertainty, fear and darkness are pervasive throughout mainstream media right now, we are grateful to have found a source of joy and positivity that we can share with others.

Read Also: Meet The Sensational Women TikTok Stars In India

What kind of challenges have you faced when you started uploading Tik Tok videos?

TikTok is such a wonderful platform because anyone with a phone can use the app, create content, and utilise the app’s cool editing features to do so. Once we realised that the possibilities to create content on TikTok were endless we challenged and pushed ourselves to brainstorm and conceptualise creative content ideas that would reflect our dance training, be catchy, and engage with our South Asian American identity in some way. There have been days where we each find ourselves in a creative rut which is challenging to push past, but throughout this journey, we have supported each other and continued to feed off of each others’ energy to create content.

Would you prefer taking up other subjects for your videos?

Absolutely! Dance is central to our platform and we are excited to continue posting dance content while venturing out into other types of content. We are so grateful that we get to share our love for dance with our followers and supporters but we do want them to get to know us beyond dance. On TikTok, we have incorporated some videos that are TikTok trend based and reflect our fun and silly sides. We recently launched a YouTube channel and are going to use that platform to post more lifestyle content as well as long-form dances.

How do you tackle hate comments? Any comment that you would like to share?

We value all of the comments, feedback and suggestions we get on our posts. We want to be as inclusive as possible with the content that we post and we want others to feel that they can enjoy and relate to what we post. Our mission is rooted in a desire to increase the South Asian representation, especially South Asian American representation in dance and we hold ourselves and each other accountable to that mission.

What ignited your passion for dance? Was it some incident or a well-known dancer?

Each of us began training in classical Russian ballet at the age of three, in Brooklyn. Soon after, we began training in other dance styles including Bharatnatyam, Ballroom, Jazz and Contemporary. When we were young, we would go to our dance class because our mom told us to do so. However, as we grew older and developed a more personal connection to art, dance became an antidote to the stress of school. It quickly transformed into an outlet and a passion. Once we began high school, each of us learned different dance styles.

Aashika is trained heavily in Horton and Graham, and she continues to dance on Georgia Tech’s collegiate level dance team, Goldrush. Rishika continued her dance training as a varsity cheerleader in high school and continued to dance in college, where she danced on both the competitive Garba-Raas and Bhangra teams. Omika also was a varsity cheerleader in high school, and after college, she trained as a semi-professional salsa dancer.

Read Also: Not Just A Passion, Dancing Is In Her Blood: Kathak Teacher Ketaki Hazra

Living far from your culture, how do you still feel rooted in it?

Growing up, we felt as if our Indian and American identities were mutually exclusive; we did not think that both identities could co-exist. It was easy to feel as if engaging with our Indian identity made us less American and vice versa, mainly due to limited representation of South Asian Americans in mainstream media and in positions of societal influence. Once we went to college and met other South Asian Americans, we each became more comfortable with our unique, mixed identity.

Now, we seek to bring that to our content. We like to dance to fusion mixes that reflect our Indian-American identities. For example, dancing to “Low” by Flo Rida and “Aaja Nachle” in the same routine goes to show that we can incorporate both South Asian and American culture into our art. We are so glad that we can inspire young South Asian Americans and serve as examples of people who embrace our hyphenated identity.

What is your vision post lockdown?

We are excited to see what the future holds in store for us. Although all three of us have different professional goals, we are already thinking about ways in which we can continue to keep our pages going and dance together. We are going to keep creating content and prioritize what we have created together.

What message would you like to give to the young dancers?

In the dance community, we didn’t see a lot of other Indian-American dancers that looked like us. With the platform that we’ve built, we want to inspire confidence within young dancers. To young South Asian girls, especially, we want them to look at the dance community and see that there is a place for them. Dance is a beautiful art form and dance itself does not discriminate. Anyone can dance and we want young dancers to keep that in mind as they further their dance careers.

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Simran Dhawan is an intern with SheThePeople.TV