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Meet Devika Dhawan founder of DFD Academy

Today we introduce you to Devika Dhawan, Founder of DFD Academy.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Dance is something that’s been a constant in my life, but teaching it really stemmed from a personal mission. Growing up as a first-generation South Asian American, I often felt torn between the cultural norms of my family and assimilating to the environment in which I was brought up. Many of my friends and peers would attest to feeling the same, but the way we dealt with it was to just identify with one side. Training in traditional Indian Classical dance and being a huge 90’s Bollywood buff, I’m sure you can guess which side I leaned toward, but the label of being more Indian or more American was always a heavy stigma. Somehow as a kid, it was difficult to see the beauty in both – until I went to college.

In college, I was introduced to fusion dance – a form that blends western and eastern dance styles together. It gave me a huge appreciation for all sides of me and the cultures I truly am. I just wished that it was something that was introduced to me earlier in life. That’s why I started DFD Academy. It’s a way for me, and my colleagues, to bring what we’ve learned in our training in college to kids at an earlier age. Today, within two locations alone, we’re running 12 classes a week for over 100 students and we’re proud to inspire these kids to be not only aspiring artists but also well-grounded individuals who can “be fusion” in all aspects of life.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think the biggest blessing and challenge as an entrepreneur is that you wear many different hats. While it’s one of the reasons I love running a business, it’s also a reoccurring challenge to be torn in so many different directions. I often find myself overwhelmed, re-thinking if what I’m doing is right, if what I’m doing is enough or if I’m even making any sense half the time. But I’m lucky I have not only my parents and an amazing staff, but an important life support to keep me sane – my brother. He’s much younger than me, yet oddly always has the perspective I need to hear. And he’s my best friend who understands who I am and really sees where I want to go. He’s the insane that keeps me sane.

We’d love to hear more about DFD Academy.
DFD Academy is a dance academy that offers precision-based training in fusion dance, a style where we blend eastern and western genres (such as Bollywood, Hip Hop, Folk, Contemporary and Classical) to create something stylistically ambiguous and universally relevant. I’ve always wanted people to see our performances and be able to enjoy and appreciate them no matter what their background, training or experience is. What makes us unique is that we’re hyper-focused on elevating the level at which our students learn and perform while also enhancing their personal enrichment. As I mentioned before, I want our students to get more than just the dance education out of their classes at DFD. I want this to be an opportunity for them to build their confidence, diversify their thinking, and understand how to work as a team – many of the attributes we, as DFD Instructors, learned through our experiences on collegiate dance teams.

Currently, we offer classes in North Andover, Westford, and most recently, Burlington, MA, but apart from that, we also have our professional dance company in Boston, called DFD & Co., comprised of young professionals, college students, and recent grads who share their passion to inspire the next generation of dancers. You’ll find us all over Boston and beyond, sharing our love for dance through performances at weddings, companies, showcases, and other special events. The point is that this shared, communal experience, shouldn’t just begin or end in college – we want to take it beyond that.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was never the kind of kid who wanted to fit in. I always knew I wanted to stand out. I remember when I was in middle school, we had a retro day. I wore my mom’s old Rajasthani lengha, because hey, that’s what she wore back in India, so in my logic, it was Indian retro. Being one of the very few South Asian kids in my school, I definitely got a lot of stares and questioning looks, but I walked down that hall like nobody’s business.

Whether it was school, dance, or any kind of project I took on in life, I always pushed myself and was extra critical on how I could be better – the definition of a quintessential nerd, but something I embraced. I knew from very early on that without hard work you can’t go anywhere, and being a bit of a dreamer, I’m pretty sure I’ll have some extra work cut out for me. Working hard and dreaming big is something that’s been instilled in me by my parents and it’s something I pass on to my students and company members. I think that’s why I went into running my own business. Because there’s no finish line – you’re always looking for the next opportunity or a way to get better. I thrive on that.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Devam Dhawan, Devika Dhawan, Shachi Risbud

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