nina k shi dance studio

[Nina Kottakuzhiyil|Photo Source: Nina KottaKottakuzhiyil]

Most little girls dream of growing up and stepping into a number of exciting careers — a fearless astronaut one day, a graceful ice skater the next — every day holds a bright new possibility. Eventually though, their well-paved paths will lead to the inevitable fork, and if they are lucky, they will find themselves fulfilling both their dreams and destinies in professions that could not suit them any better.

Nina Kottakuzhiyil, 26, wasn’t much like other girls in that way. She does not remember aspiring to be anything extraordinary when she was young; she was not declaring a new dream career every other week. But the rest of Kottakuzhiyil’s tale is very much akin to those of the “lucky ones” because when her stars aligned, it was obvious that she was exactly where she was meant to be.

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[Nina Kottakuzhiyil|Photo Source: Nina KottaKottakuzhiyil]

“I honestly don’t know if I had any career dreams as a really young girl,” she said in an email interview. “I remember aspiring to be a pediatrician at some point but that changed. As I got a little older, all I really wanted to do was dance but knew that would not go over well with my parents. When I got closer to applying for colleges, my parents suggested I pursue pharmacy. I decided to apply and was accepted into the Doctorate of Pharmacy program at St. John’s University [in Queens].”

After spending years dancing and choreographing for local programs and performances, Kottakuzhiyil prepared herself to be caught in the throes of an intensive, six-year pharmacy program that would consume her days with schoolwork. Chose a steady path to success she did, but one thing was still for sure—she would dance through it.

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[After a performance at the Bengali Cultural Program in Elicott City, MD| Photo Source: Nina KottaKottakuzhiyil]

“I think I did everything EXCEPT put dance on hold,” Kottakuzhiyil recalls of her college years. “I remember before I left college, my dad told me to not even think about dancing, and that I need to only worry about my studies. One of the first things I did was audition for the Fusion Bollywood all-female dance team.”

For the next six years, Kottakuzhiyil made clear to those around her that one dream would never take a backseat to the other, serving as captain of her dance team and participating in numerous competitions—all the while nurturing her passion to dance as much as anything else.

Today Kottakuzhiyil’s life is the stuff of what many little girls’ dreams are made of. Upon beginning her career as a pharmacist, Kottakuzhiyil was intent on furthering her dream to dance to the next step and in July 2014, she founded the NinaKshi Dance Studio in Silver Spring, MD.

nina k shi dance studio

[NinaKshi Dance Studio| Photo Source: Nina KottaKottakuzhiyil]

Successfully managing two busy careers at such a young age, Kottakuzhiyil is living, what many would undoubtedly say, is the ultimate dream. For her there is no real 9-to-5 because everyday is jam-packed, as she is at the hospital by day and teaches everything from Bollywood and semi-classical dance to hip-hop and modern by night (not to mention choreographing performances, providing students with individual feedback and prepping for classes daily). And as chaotic as it sounds, this big dreamer would not trade it in for anything else.

“I’m a full-time pharmacist and a full-time dance instructor,” she said.  “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am blessed to have a career where I can help people and then come home to a talent and passion that is shared with anyone who is willing.”

“Dancing is such a great art to have in your life at any age! Not only does it promote a healthy lifestyle through physical workouts, it enhances your short- and long-term memory, builds creativity, relieves stress, promotes team-building and removes any fear of being in front of an audience—all extremely valuable skills to acquire at any age or with any profession. A dancer learns all this and more while undertaking an activity they enjoy! It’s a win-win!”

nina k shi dance studio

[Children performing at the NinaKshi Dance Studio| Photo Source: Nina KottaKottakuzhiyil]

And while having two careers is not what everyone wants or can handle, Kottakuzhiyil  is more than encouraging to anyone who is bold enough to try and step outside the box and take a risk for something more than just money.

On what advice she has to pass on to aspiring entrepreneurs and creatives struggling with a decision between the “stable” careers and passionate ones, Kottakuzhiyil said, “There will be challenges from the start and your expectations may not be met right away, but the one thing you will never have to compromise is your passion. I could not deal with just being a healthcare professional – I knew I was meant for more. If you have the same feeling, that means there is a purpose in your heart you were meant to fulfill – so DO IT. There’s one quote I live by: ‘Your talent is God’s gift to you – what you do with it is your gift to God.’ If he instilled a plan, a career or a passion in your heart – take a risk and step out on Faith. He’ll see you through.”

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