Ajna Dance Company is New York’s premier Indian dance company, specializing in artistic and authentic choreography. The company was created in 2012 with the purpose of sharing Indian dance in all its forms – folk, classical, and film – with a global and diverse audience. The Ajna Ensemble and teaching staff are trained in a broad range of dance styles and pride themselves on offering stunning performances and highly skilled instruction. Ajna’s signature style is elegant, high-energy, and blends the excitement of Bollywood with the grace and technique of classical dance.
Ajna offers classes in a number of styles for dancers of all levels. These include Bollywood, Bhangra, classical Indian dance (Bharathanatyam and Kathak), semi-classical blend, Gujarati folk dance, cardio dance, and yoga-movement. Weekly group classes (available for both children and adults) teach technique, conditioning, expression, and choreography. Ajna also provides private classes for technique and special event choreography, and educational Indian dance workshops and assemblies for schools and corporations. The Ajna teaching staff is professionally trained and is adept at teaching and choreographing for your skill-level, age, and preferences.
The Ajna Ensemble dancers have had the honor of performing at various high profile events for such venerable institutions as the United Nations, Macy’s, Barclays, Wells Fargo, S&P, Google, Nasdaq, MoMA Film, and The Rubin Museum. Ajna works with a number of nonprofits and professional organizations including the Women’s Education Project, NY Cares, and the American India Foundation. The company has had the honor of performing at a number of festivals in New York City, including the Fourth Arts Block (FAB) festival, the India Day parade, Dance Parade New York, the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival (SAIPAF), and Sangita Yesley’s 8 in Show at Dixon Place. Finally, Ajna partnered with the New York Indian Film Festival in 2014 and choreographed flash mobs (covered on BollySpice and TV Asia), promoting the festival at Union Square and Times Square, and has performed on ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC.com’s Red Nose Day celebrations in 2015.
The Ajna Team
Minila Shah – Founder & Director (Minila’s Bio)
Shachi Phene – Assistant Director
Hometown: Lexington, MA / Mumbai, India
Favorite Bollywood song: Tum Jo Aaye, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai
Describe Ajna in one word: Refreshing
What does dance mean to you? I feel the most free when I dance. There is something so liberating about using every bit of your body to tell a story because you are literally stepping into another character for a moment.
About Shachi: Shachi began her formal education in Bharathanatyam at age 8 under Smt. Ranjani Saigal of the Eastern Rhythms Dance School in Boston. At 13, Shachi spent a summer training in Chennai with Smt. Kausalya Srinivasan of the Sunartaka School of Dance and at 14, she completed her Arangetram (solo debut) under the tutelage of both her teachers. That summer, she performed in Vasantha Vaikunth’s dance drama, “Dancing Into Orbit”. Following this, Shachi had the privilege to study at the Thillai Fine Arts Academy with Smt. Sunanda Narayanan who trained her in the grammar and theory of the Vuzhvoor style of Bharathanatyam.
In college, Shachi co-founded Bates Masti, which prided itself on authentic Bollywood/ Indian folk performances by dancers of all backgrounds and experiences. She performed and taught workshops throughout the New England area. Since moving to New York in December 2013, Shachi has enjoyed performing with Ajna and teaching classes in children’s Bharathanatyam, and children’s and adults’ Bollywood/Bhangra.
Alisha Desai – Dance Artist, Instructor
Hometown: Pittsburg, PA
Favourite Bollywood song: Dola Re, Devdas
Describe Ajna in one word: Refreshing
What does dance mean to you? Dance is not only a career of mine, but a passion. It is an expression of the soul, and originates in the rhythms innate in one’s heart beat. Dance if a way to bring communities together while celebrating the diversity among us.
About Alisha: Alisha Desai has been a part of Ajna Dance since it’s conception in Fall 2011 as a performer and instructor. She has expertise in Bollywood and Bharatantyam (Indian classical), and is also skilled in theater jazz, hip hop and modern. Currently, she is also a featured dancer in AATMA’s Mystic India: the World Tour (www.mysticindiatheshow.com), where she has performed for audiences nationally and internationally including in China and the Middle East. She is a core member of NYC Bhangra Dance Company (www.nycbhangra.com) as well. Alisha discovered her passion for Indian dance when she spent a year abroad intensively training in Bharatanatyam at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in India.
Alisha is also an experienced choreographer and teacher. She has taught with Unity Stage Theater Company/ArtsACTION, Fit4Life Kids, and the Children’s Theater Company.
A graduate from Lawrence College with a concentration in performing arts, Alisha has a background in theater, film, and vocal performance, in addition to dance. Notable projects include The Death of Don Juan, a modern opera and the feature films Karma Road and Captured Hearts.
Reshma Patel – Dance Artist
Hometown: Winnipeg/Mississauga, Canada
Favorite Bollywood song: Kehna Hi Kya, Bombay
Describe Ajna in one word: Graceful
What does dance mean to you? Dance brings back so many memories of my childhood. I did classical ballet for almost 20 years, and sprinkled Bollywood and Indian folk dancing throughout those years. After college I stopped dancing, and now, Ajna has brought back that passion to my life! I am never more free and unencumbered than I am on the stage.
About Reshma: Reshma has trained in various dance forms, including 20 years of classical ballet, and 30 years of Indian folk and Bollywood dance. She has choreographed dozens of pieces for performances, college competitions, and weddings in Canada, New York, and the UK. In addition, she’s performed for the world’s top organizations, including the UN, Google, and Macy’s.
Ankita Ray – Dance Artist, Instructor
Favorite Bollywood Song: Any old Kishore Kumar song.
Describe Ajna in one word: Family
What does dance mean to you? Lifeline
About Ankita: Ankita Ray a sophomore at College of Arts and Sciences at NYU is a trained classical Orissi dancer. While being a part of the Jayantee Paine Ganguly’s Konark Dance School in Maryland, Ankita has performed in Washington DC, Boston and New Jersey area. She has won first and second places in Orissi competition (IDEA) in Washington DC area for the years 2006 and 2007.
Ankita visits India to train at Padmavibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra’s school, Srjan under the tutelage of Sujata Mohapatra. She has also trained under Orissi gurus like Aruna Mohanty, Manoranjan Pradhan and Jayantee Paine Ganguly.
Ankita has taught Orissi workshops at Salt Lake City Community College during 2010-2011. She has performed regularly at the ISKON temple in Spanish Fork, Utah as well as the LDS church and the Hindu Temple and as part of Indian and International festivals in Salt Lake City.
Along with classical training Ankita has trained in Indian contemporary dance in Shiamak Davar’s school in New Delhi and taken modern dance lessons from Angie Ventero in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ankita has taught modern dance at Surachandam dance in Salt Lake City. Presently she is affiliated to Ajna dance school and learns and performs in and around the NY area.
Proma Khosla – Dance Artist, Instructor
Hometown: Boston, MA
Favorite Bollywood song: I don’t think I can choose! I do love me some item numbers. Also I’ve recently taken a liking to all the sad songs that would have bored me when I was younger – they’re actually amazing.
Describe Ajna in one word: Comforting
What does dance mean to you? Dance is Home
About Proma: Proma Khosla made her stage debut at age three, as a particularly still and petrified Lord Krishna. She studied dance with her mother, Bipasha Guptaroy, founder of the Srijan India Dance Company and longtime student of the contemporary Indian dance style of Uday Shankar. Through Srijan, Proma performed at Danza in Fiera in Florence, Italy, and been part of collaborative and interactive performances with various choreographers and artists. In 1999, Proma moved to Michigan and began her Bharatanatyam training with Sudha Chandrasekhar, culminating in an Arangetram in 2010. At the University of Michigan, Proma basically majored in Indian dance, performing Bollywood, folk, and bhangra in annual Indian American Student Association culture shows and competing around the country for two years with the university’s co-ed Bollywood dance team, Michigan Manzil. Dance has been a wonderful constant in her life and she is thrilled to continue pursuing this passion with Ajna.
Favorite Bollywood Song: Manmohini from Yuvraaj
Describe Ajna in one word: Inspiring
What does dance mean to you? It is my passion.
About Radhika: Radhika is a multitalented dancer who started training in the classical Indian dance form of Bharatnatyam at the age of 4 from internationally recognized Ms. Chaula Thacker. In 2006, after many years of rigorous training and dedication, she completed her Bharatnatyam Arangentram from the Chauladevi Institute of Dance and Yoga, in Michigan. In college, Radhika was President of her Indian Student organization where she performed and choreographed in their annual cultural shows. Prior to moving to New York City, she continued to dance with her dance troupe Nadanta where she performed many forms of Indian dance (folk, classical, bhangra) over multiple performances every year. Radhika has also performed and competed in US and Canada including the Super Bowl XL multicultural show entitled “Nations in Rhythm Detroit!” She uses her classical foundation as a base for her expressive and energetic dance.
Harika Chatlapalli – Dance Artist
Hometown: Hopewell Junction, NY
Favorite Bollywood song: Chamak Challo Chel Chabeli
Describe Ajna in one word: Outlet
What does dance mean to you? Dance is speaking to an audience without words
About Preethy: Harika is a Kuchipudi dancer and choreographer who has trained under her mother, Guru Kantham Chatlapalli since she was three. In 2003, she completed her graduation or “Rangapravesam” in Kuchipudi Indian Classical dance and since then has continued studying the art form and has performed in the US, Europe, and India. Her career has involved recognition at various dance competitions and by Fox Network’s, So You Think You Can Dance. Harika is also a recipient of the Honorable Mention award from the National Foundation for the Advancement of Arts and the Folk Arts Apprenticeship in Indian Classical dance from the New York State Council on the Arts. In addition to Indian dance, Harika is trained in hip hop and ballet and served as the head choreographer of Carnegie Mellon’s Indian fusion dance team, Tanah, for three years.
Preethy Phillip – Dance Artist
Hometown: Westwood, NJ
Favorite Bollywood song: Ishq Hua-Aaja Nachle
Describe Ajna in one word: Feminine
What does dance mean to you? What I perceive Bollywood dance to be is more about exposing a romantic and fun character with folk movement.
About Preethy: Preethy Philip grew up in New Jersey where she was first inspired by Indian folk dance through Bollywood films at age 6. She joined Arya Dance School to learn folk dance at age 10. As a teenager, she wanted to focus on traditional Indian dance so she pursued Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. After completing two years of classical training, she gained better form, grace, and precision. While Preethy took a break from dance during high school, she was inspired again after meeting several dancers in college who also shared similar dance interests. As a college student, Preethy and her colleagues introduced Bollywood dance through various programs to spread diversity and cultural awareness. After graduation, Preethy yearned for performing again for an audience so she auditioned for the Ajna Dance Company in 2013.