New Delhi: Croatia-born Bharatanatyam danseuse Nikolina Nikoleski, who was encouraged to pursue dance forms and sports from childhood, finds to her delight that more and more Indian youngsters are taking to physical expression.
"India has recently changed and is still going through changes in last 6-8 years where more youngsters are also being exposed and encouraged in physical expression," Nikoleski, 43, told IANS in an interview.
"I see that as a very positive change and good sign. Being healthy and free in one's body is the foundation of a good and complete life," she said.
Speaking about her own early practice, Nikoleski recalled: "I was born and brought up in Croatia where children from a very tender age are exposed and encouraged to pursue various dance forms and sports. Almost every child then takes this hobby very seriously."
The hobbies later translate to professional spaces, and make Croatia -- with a population of close to 42 lakh people -- a country with "world, Olympic and European champions in every sport", she said.
She is trained in classical ballet, contemporary dance, folk dances, flamenco, physical theatre, and yoga, apart from Bharatanatyam.
Nikoleski's quest to learn multiple dance forms took her from the small European country, where she started with gymnastics at the age of four, to the land of multiple cultures and dance forms -- India.
Settled in Delhi since 2005, the professional dancer-teacher has learnt Bharatanatyam in India under the tutelage of gurus Saroja Vaidyanathan, Malavika Sarukkai, as well as Shanta and V.P. Dhananjayan.
Coming from the light-footed ballet tradition, it took dedicated practice for Nikoleski to master this age-old dance form, that requires the performer to do heavy footwork along with gestures and body movements.
"I fell in love with Bharatanatyam because of its amazing holistic art, beautiful expression, use of all body, including facial expressions, 'mudras', intricate footwork, state-of-art costume and jewellery, music and ragas.
"They transform and elevate one's feelings. Most importantly, it's storytelling of ancient spiritual scripts, devotional poetry and brilliantly expresses all human yearnings, longings, emotions, and inner battles," she explained.
Heading her own dance academy now, she said that learning the Indian classical dance has completed her as a human and as an artist.
Nikoleski's students - 73 of them, with ages ranging from four to 70 - performed classical ballet, contemporary and jazz dances at an event here last week.