Nina “Ballerina” Gupta, a rising senior at George Mason University, is currently working towards a degree in Economics and a career as a corporate lawyer. She loves traveling the world, being outdoors, and spending time on the water, whether it is just sitting on a boat or racing around on jet skis. Though she enjoys all these other activities, her true passion lies in dance. Her life is very intertwined with dance and her story is truly unique to her.
How long have you been dancing?
I have been dancing since I was one, so 20 years.
What does dance mean to you?
Dance, to me, is a method of expression. It is the only way I feel like I can truly be myself and be free. It is a way to temporarily escape reality and allows me to remain calm. It gives me the chance to clear my mind and to think, especially when times are tough. It is also a way for me to connect with my loved ones, which have unfortunately passed away. When I dance, I feel in-touch with them and I feel their love, support, and security.
What styles of dance do you do and why?
Since I started dancing at a young age, and have been on different dance teams throughout the years, I’ve been exposed to many styles of dance. In my childhood, I was primarily surrounded by bollywood so that was what I initially began with. As I grew older (throughout middle school), I was involved with ballet, contemporary, gymnastics, and cheerleading. It was a different experience for me, but I enjoyed every moment. Entering high school, I explored various ballroom and latin styles, learned how to belly dance, and dabbled a bit in zumba. That is where I felt the most comfort and where my interest in dance really peaked. Joining college, I kept up with my newfound interests, but expanded to styles like house, hip-hop, bhangra, and classical. For me, I’m the kind of person that loves engulfing herself in other cultures and dances. I enjoy venturing out and learning new dance forms, but also staying in touch with my roots. Dance, overall, is my sole passion so any opportunity I get to dance, I never hesitate to say yes.
What teams have you been on and what made you join them?
In high school, I was the president/captain of the zumba and dance teams. With the zumba team, we would hold dance classes, after school every Tuesday and Thursday, for the public. With the dance team, we would meet up occasionally to learn choreography and perform at school events like field day and coffee houses (fundraisers for charity). In college, I joined Mason Ke Rang (from fall semester freshman year to mid-spring semester junior year) and was Artistic Director and one of the head choreographers. I also joined GMU Bhangra (from mid-fall semester junior year to current) and will be the Webmaster for the upcoming season. I got involved with all these teams because dance is something I’ve always loved to do.
What struggles have you faced in your life?
Though I’m only 21, I feel like I’ve gone through many life-altering experiences that shape me to who I am today. Ever since the tender age of 6, I’ve grown up in a household where, both physical and verbal, abuse was normal. The smallest mistakes would issue me a larger than needed punishment. As I grew older, I gained up some courage and talked with my parents. The physical abuse stopped with both parents, however the verbal abuse only ended with one. For me, verbal abuse is way more damaging to a person because it not only affects them mentally, but it can also lead to physical harm.
A few other struggles that I face are depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Throughout my life, I’ve been inspired and influenced by many people close to me- whether it be from family members or friends- and unfortunately many have passed away. Losing a beloved one is difficult for everyone that has to go through it. I, especially, took each passing very hard. It was hard to focus and it really changed my perspective of everything. It changed how I conducted myself, how I treated others, and how I wanted to live my life. I believe that a part of my depression can be attributed to the unconditional love I give to others. I am the type of person to always put others before myself and the kind of friend that will do everything she can to make sure someone is okay. As much as this is a good thing, it leaves me alone to handle tough situations and it puts me in a position where I have no one to confide in myself.
I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety since about the 5th grade, but the suicidal tendencies did not set in until sophomore year of high school. Between the rough home environment and the bullying I faced at school, I felt like I had no way out. Everyday was a constant struggle and the overwhelming feeling of drowning was becoming harder and harder to bear. Thanks to the support from my amazing friends and a spectacular school counselor, I was able to temporarily overcome those thoughts. It was also brought up to my family’s attention, but unfortunately it did not really change much. To this day, I still have to work on myself, but I’m really grateful for all the love I receive from my friends.
Recently, I’ve been dealing with another serious issue. Breast cancer has shown to be prevalent on my mother’s side of the family and about a year back, I had to go through my first cancer scare. Though I am blessed to be cancer-free as of now, going every few months to get tested is very nerve-racking.
How has dance helped you face this adversity?
Dance has helped me face this adversity by giving me an outlet to which I can be free of negativity. It gives me the creative space to bring out the strongest parts of myself and is a method of self-encouragement and self-empowerment. Dance helped me learn a lot of things about myself and pushed me to go outside my comfort zone to challenge myself to become a better dancer and a better human being.
What do you want people to take away from your story? What advice do you have to share with other dancers?
I want people to take away two things: strength and perseverance. With all the hardships I’ve faced, and continue to go through, those two words mean the most to me. Everyone has their highs and their lows, maybe some more so than others, but no one should ever give up or feel like they have to go through something alone (no matter how big or small the obstacle may be). I am more than willing to listen and be a person you can confide in. My advice to dancers would be to never stop doing what you love to do. Surround yourself with positive people and always try to find the silver lining of a situation. Be patient. Good things don’t come easy. Most of all, love yourself. You are all talented, beautiful, strong, and amazing individuals. Never forget that.