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Moving forward

The N9 Dance Co, run by artistic director Nalini Akal, recently had its 18th anniversary. She celebrates the landmark with Sunday Arts in her own words.
Published: 
Sunday, October 15, 2017
An N9 aerial silk performance. PICTURES COURTESY N9 DANCE CO/ RICHARD LYDER

Being an entrepreneur involves a lot of deep breaths. It really isn’t for the fainthearted. It involves moving from one choice to the next at the chosen pace of the day.

A lot of people think that to achieve great things money is your most efficient tool but really, time is your most crucial tool. Once that is spent it never comes back, and it isn’t guaranteed you will get more of it.

N9 Dance Co was started on September 9, 1999. When N9 was first formed it was a group of my school friends taking part in my dance classes and I wanted to make the group official.

My first dancers—to whom I remain close to this day—are a pair of sisters, Candice and Sareeta Daniel. I think they show how the company has evolved because we initially started together in Latin American dance but then we branched over to Middle Eastern dance and there a strong sisterhood evolved.

Indian dancer Rachel Baptiste-Lee and her family became a stream of support. My own family has always supported the work—and by support I don’t mean in a blindly giving way but also in the assistance in the continuous analysis of the business by my sister Kamini. I know I am blessed to have had the support of my parents, siblings and extended family. That is something I believe young entrepreneurs need, that basic interest in what they are doing even if family members do not understand the initiative.

I also had the steady support of Richard Lyder and Andrea Lyder to keep me focused and grounded.

But truly N9 Dance evolved beyond myself. Key dancers stepped forward in the running of certain sections: Roger Rochard assisted with Latin dance but then as Middle Eastern dance progressed Tia Haynes became the backbone for teaching classes with a true love and patience for the art form, while Jody, my sister became my co-performer. Jody recently won the UTT Ready to Wear award for fashion this year and has been instrumental in our new costume concepts.

We also have N9 loyalists like Allison Poon, Hazel Watson, Melissa Dassrath and Wendy Thomas who performed with us at our countless shows.

Then in 2012 along came Mike and Luisa, both hailing from the Mexican Circus, and our Circus Arts section was born. Mike immediately assisted with our pole dance section, which was founded in 2009. Luisa became integral in our aerial arts as well. We then had the opportunity to visit Circo Dragon in Mexico and we are trying to strengthen ties there as well as investigate collaborations.

N9 also became a hub as we opened our doors to host other independent teachers and schools. Classes now include: belly dance, Bollywood, modern, contemporary, Latin, Flamenco, hip hop and more.

I had the opportunity to visit China and was made a master teacher, thanks to Maria Lee of Chinese Cultural Arts and Studies from San Fernando.

And N9 Dance Company is evolving yet again! N9 Artz is coming next year, our non-profit for helping youth in the arts. N9 Dance Studio Events promises to make a lot of other art forms more accessible to the public ranging from weekly workshops to providing a space for creative expression. We know these are trying times. It is creativity that helps us through many obstacles. The benefit for students of the arts is health for mind and body as well as building community.

My personal mantra is pray, have faith and keep moving forward.