Namita Khanna Nariani, 2013 Asian American Hero of Colorado
Driven by Namita Khanna Nariani’s passion for Indian dance, Mudra Dance Studio has made culturally impactful and life-changing effects on the Colorado community.
Founded in 1993 by Nariani with one teacher and three students, Aurora-based Mudra Dance Studio has given thousands of people in Colorado the opportunity to experience the art of Indian dance. The dancers, or “Mudras,” have performed at the Denver Zoo, Arvada Center, many public and private schools and at cultural events like Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, according to Pam Sweetser, the founder of Adoptive Heritage Camps for Families, formerly Colorado Heritage Camps, who nominated Nariani.
Sweetser met Nariani through the Indian/Nepalese Heritage Camp, one of a series of summer camps that allow adopted children and their families to experience the culture of their birth countries. She calls Nariani a “driving force” behind the Indian/Nepalese Heritage Camp.
“For adopted Indian children, Namita and the Mudras have been a year-round way to stay connected to their culture and to their camp friends,” Sweetser says. “She has single-handedly built pride and self-esteem to so many kids, adopted and non-adopted alike, from every cultural background.”
Nariani moved to Colorado from Bombay, India 23 years ago. An architect by profession, Nariani opened her own firm in 2007, and teaches and dances in the community with Mudra Dance Studio in addition to her full-time career. It may fill her schedule, but Nariani says it’s worth it to give back to a community that has given her so much.
“There are just so many people out there that give so much of themselves to the world and are so selfless,” Nariani says. “To be selected like this and have somebody like Pam Sweetser nominate me is just such an amazing and humbling experience.”
Nariani says her greatest accomplishment is her two daughters. Her younger daughter, Ninaad, is a student teacher at the Mudra Dance Studio, and her elder daughter, Eishita, is finishing her sophomore year at George Washington University in Washington D.C. Eishita was named captain of her Indian Dance Team, which performs and competes all over the U.S.
Nariani’s advice to the younger generation is, “Always know if you are true to yourself and to what you want to accomplish. It doesn’t matter what color, what ethnicity you’re from. If you are true to yourself and true to the others you face in life, you can always accomplish anything.”