The Grounded Disruptorread article
By: Synne Linden
Ramita Ravi remembers the process of reconnecting with her childhood love for dance well. In her early teens, she had spent so long in a competitive environment that the need to prove herself and to fit in had overtaken her passion. Strengthened and fuelled by the simple fact that she was typically the only Indian girl in the room, winning, and not necessarily dancing, became her focus.
My entire life was ‘Learn dances and compete them’ - all year round. From age 5 I did that, until I grew up. And being part of that environment has been super interesting. I started with loving dance and just wanting to learn a lot and being excited to perform. And then you get to a phase where you just really want to win - and that becomes your goal. Especially when I didn’t look like anyone else, I felt like I constantly had to prove myself and fit in with everyone else.
"I constantly had to prove myself and fit in with everyone else"
The problem was, with this attention in mind, Ramita wasn’t winning. But around the beginning of high school, something changed. She remembered why she loved to dance, and with that, everything else - the panel of White judges, the ostracism, the other competitors, the color of her skin - faded out. In their place, pure, joyful movement took hold. Her freedom to express herself entirely and unapologetically through her medium. And as soon as the outcome of the competition became secondary to her passion, she started placing first - all the time.
With such a concrete experience of how powerful manifested authenticity is, it’s no wonder that Ramita is always searching for new and innovative ways to carve out a path for herself - especially in an industry that’s still suffering from a substantial lack of diversity. She believes that the performing arts have an incredible potential for entrepreneurship, and that when the efforts to change the status quo come from a place of true passion, the community is made better for it.
You have to be authentic; you have to be genuine and you have to be passion-driven in what you do. If that passion and what you’re working on is not genuine, then what’s the point? I think this sentiment has been very true for me in my dance career; I want to deserve all the opportunities that I have and really create a space where everyone can be seen for the passion they bring to their work.
"If that passion and what you’re working on is not genuine, then what’s the point?"
However, the fuel to challenge existing systems doesn’t come without its own tests. In her professional career, Ramita has re-entered competitions on a whole different level. On a daily basis, she’s judged on her movement, her appearance, her energy; auditions are purely pragmatic and interest-driven affairs. She’s still the only Indian in the room a lot of the time, and her pursuit to drive change is a constant, everlasting battle - in which she must remind herself of that same lesson she learnt as a teen over and over again: That she does this because she loves it.
It’s these aspects that she’s most proud of in herself, too. The hustle mentality. The resourceful approach to any given problem. Her ability to quickly understand the situation and either navigate it or challenge it head-on. She has even incorporated lessons in entrepreneurship from school into her art.
I feel like I work extremely hard in what I do - you have to as a creative. But also, we’re in a freelance economy, and so I manage so many different areas in my career - and that orients itself well towards entrepreneurship. I find that working on my dance company, and a new venture I’m currently developing, I have all these skills and I know how to figure out what I need to know, simply because I’ve had to do it for my career.
Being resilient and having a true attitude of ‘Anything is possible’ ingrained into your personality doesn’t come without its difficulties. Ramita wants to do everything. She’s always searching for new opportunities; new ways to discover them and navigate them. That means she over-commits. She spreads herself thin. Sticking with one narrative at a time is very hard for her - simply because there are so many goals that she wants to pursue simultaneously.
I wish I could be better at not filling up my plate and focusing my energy in one or two areas, rather than try to spread myself thin. That’s a constant balancing act - of being passion-driven and excited about so many things, but then having to hone them in.
Ramita’s confidence is still strongest in those moments of authenticity that have become so important in her life. This is also what #OwnYourGlow means to her: Being guided by an energy that is a pure connection into your creative expression. She misses the three-minute solos she got to do as a child, when the stage was hers. Uninterrupted by expectation or direction, a space of total freedom. The nostalgia seeps into the manner she shapes her career today, as she lays the foundation for a more inclusive, a more passion-driven and a more authentic Dance industry.
When I was young there was very little diversity. And I think I saw that through dance, because in the studios I went to as a child and in my teens, I was often one of the only people of color. But then I went to college, and I saw those communities that had been so separate before coming together - and it was because of dance.