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The Namibian Dancing Queen, Nikhita Winkler

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Learn a little more about her story, inspiration and hopes for the future.



A quick intro by Alex: We met Nikhita back in 2016, when Temu was on a 3-week mission in Namibia to fashion my previous experience in the country into the most compelling photography tour possible. A past traveler had casually asked us if we might be able to experiment with a model shoot in one of our intended sites, so of course Temu took that request as seriously as possible... And so, via a series of contacts that shot up as high as the Minister of Tourism (a close friend of Temu's sister), we were connected to Nikhita. Immediately we were captivated by her talent, openness, and joie-de-vivre. As were our groups who eventually got to meet and photograph her (a bonus we hadn't even mentioned in their itinerary). Some travelers have even forged beautiful life-long friendships with Nikhita, which makes us smile to no end.


The photos below are my own from June 2018, when we turned a last-minute flight schedule change into an opportunity to spend some time with her at a new location: a "ghost house" outside of Windhoek. It was such a hit, we've formally added this option to our 2019 trip, and expect to continue doing so in the future.


Amber interviewed Nikhita this winter, and we were delighted to learn even more amazing things about her as you can read below. *If you don't have time for the full post, consider scrolling down to the bottom where you can find out how to support some of the beautiful work she is doing.


- Alex Ros, de Open Sky

 

What is your background and what got you started dancing?


I was born and raised in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. I think I became a dancer because I experience my world through my body, and music resonates strongly in me. My training started at the age of 5 with ballet. I did the British Royal Academy of Dance curriculum until I was 16 years old and than I left the country to complete high school at a United World College in Norway under a fully funded scholarship. After completing my International Baccalaureate diploma in Norway, I received another fully funded scholarship to attend Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. There I completed my undergraduate Honours degree in Dance Performance with a concentration in Neuroscience. After graduation, I returned home and 3 years later I founded my own dance school, the Nikhita Winkler Dance Theatre.



Why do you dance?


I dance because it grounds me, it heals me, and it is how I creatively express myself. I am a free spirit when I dance. Dance is my first language, and sometimes the only language that can express the depth of me. A sangoma, traditional healer or shaman, once revealed to me that I come from the zebra people who open celebrations with dance and music. I have also been told that I can prophesy when I connect with my ancestors through dance. This I believe to be true because when I guide others through a movement meditation it helps when I move myself to be a better guide for others.



How does dancing play a role in your personal mission?


Dancing is at the center of my personal mission. Whatever I end up doing with my life, I have to dance because it keeps me healthy and sane. Like any other artistic expression, dance is therapy. My focus in life since that 5 year old girl started ballet class was always on dance. It is only now at the age of 26 that I feel a deep hunger for change and to nurture other under utilized skills of mine. I have a desire to leave a legacy on this earth as someone who impacted lives using dance as a tool for education and transformation. I started learning how to run a business by starting a dance school. I am learning about civil leadership and youth development because I run community dance projects with vulnerable children and young talents. Today I have a stronger connection with women because I started a dance class for women and they became my sisterhood. I also give motivational talks on self-love and care because dance taught me how to value myself.




What kind of dance do you perform and where?


I am a very eclectic/versatile dancer. I trained in classical ballet for 15 years, did hip-hop on the streets, and when I went to study dance I gained a wealth of dance experience. I explored styles such as jazz, improvisation, modern dance, voguing and classical Indian dance. Every country I visited left in me a piece of their rhythm. When I returned home to Namibia in 2015, I learned traditional dance including kwaito from which I have derived my own traditional contemporary fusion style. 


What is your personal mantra?


Everything is temporary except for change. Be present, even with your pain and suffering for it too shall pass. And, Enjoy the Journey!



Do you have a favorite song?


I don't have a favorite song neither do I have a favorite artist. I listen to good music from all over the world, any genre, as long as it is good. My spirit will know. Currently, I am enjoying the sounds of Masego. And this one feel good song just gives me the thrills every time, Ascension by Maxwell.


Do you have a favorite quote?


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Nelson Mandela 


AND


"I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn't been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn't have been lucky."

- Oprah Winfrey




Do you have a role model?


Oprah Winfrey is my role model. It is my wish to meet her on my crown birthday when I am 30 years old in the next 3 years. Another quote I love from her is "I come as one and I stand as 10 000 to the 10th power." Now that is a powerful soul. 


You talk about healing around your dance, can you explain this?


Dance is an artistic expression and any form of artistic expression is healing. I believe that a society that does not embrace or value art, is an ill and lost society because Art is Therapy. Art is Connection. Art is Culture. "Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body" as Martha Graham describes. The body is an intelligent source of ancient knowledge and wisdom which we often disregard in our everyday lives. When I watch some of my freestyle dance videos, I am completely amazed at my body's response to the music. I watch my videos over and over again not for personal pleasure but to learn more about my own body's wisdom. Unfortunately, we live in a society where many people use the body as a vehicle to transport suppressed traumatic experiences, and stresses in life. I can tell how free you are by how you dance. The body does not lie, it cannot lie. Everything that we suppress into the body eventually will express itself, whether in the form of physical anxiety, cancer, a bloated belly, obesity, etc. The body will eventually express what you suppress. And that is why I dance to heal, to feel, to release, to connect with my authentic self.



If you could go anywhere in the world to dance, where would you go?


I have one place that's waiting for me since 2015....a dance village just outside Bangalore, India called Nrityagram. 


What's next for you?


I have some big goals for Namibia for the next 5 - 10 years and that is why I need to go to this dance village in India. There's also one in Senegal, the US and Spain that are all on my priority list as soon as I make enough money or get funding. But on a more personal level, I am excited for big changes in my life this year, 2019. I am preparing myself for change as I await a lovely surprise from the Universe. I am ready to receive financial abundance in my life, ready to say bye to old habits that no longer serve me, ready to let go of recurring patterns. I am just ready for a new challenge, to learn and grow.





How can people support what you do?

Support is the central, most important pillar in everyone's life. The work that I do is expanding so widely that I don't even know where to start. But I'll start with the most important priority. 


Our dance school, the Nikhita Winkler Dance Theatre, runs dance projects in disadvantaged communities in Namibia and we use dance as a tool to empower vulnerable children. We are in need of funding to expand our projects into more after school programs and to enable more opportunities for our students within the program. 


With regards to my travel plans, which I have not been able to meet since 2015 due to lack of funding, financial support is also needed. Going to these dance villages around the world will help me gain new knowledge and build capacity and experience to continue doing the work that I am doing for my country, our people and the industry. 


If anyone is interested to support our projects, they can contact me at nwdanceproject@gmail.com

I will be thrilled to hear from them. 


Here is also a link to a documentary on my work as a dancer in the context of my life. 


**

All photos © Alex Ros





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