Priya Lisa

Tell us a little about yourself. 
My name is Priya Lisa Gonsalves. I was born and brought up in Bandra, Bombay. I consider myself an artist; I'm a dancer, make up artist and an aspiring writer. I'm of mixed heritage - my father is from the East Indian community in Bombay and my mother is half English and half Kashmiri.

What was your childhood like? 
I grew up in a bungalow in Bandra in a large joint family, with my grandparents, dads brothers and their families. My cousins were like siblings to me and the 6 of us would cycle around the neighbourhood and play on the streets. Bandra in the 80's and 90's was so different from what it is today - it was a small knit community and we knew all our neighbours. I had a really happy childhood!

When did you start dancing? 
I've danced for as long as I can remember. I wasn't really taught how to dance, I just sort of knew. It's always been a part of me, a way of expressing myself.  

What do you think of the street dance culture in India?
I've seen street dance from it's nascent stage in India; I was probably the first Indian woman to teach and perform styles like hip hop, waacking, house etc. The internet was definitely instrumental in street dance becoming popular. It went from a handful of people to a national phenomenon! With YouTube and Instagram, there's instant access to learning and experiencing these dance styles from around the world. The street dance space is full of unbelievable talent and heart. It's only going to grow and progress more with many Indian dancers on the world map.

What is "street dancing" exactly?
There's a wide spread debate as to what to refer to the styles that are street dance. Some of the styles include hip hop, breaking, house, waacking, locking, popping, krumping - and there are more! Personally, I try to stay away from genre classifications and explanations. These dances are not studio born dances and essentially freestyle dance based on individuality and expression, keeping in mind dance techniques and history. 

If you could perform anywhere and for anyone - where and for whom would it be?
I dance for myself and to inspire others and the audience experiences that moment with me. The best times I’ve had with dance are the most spontaneous. I want to go through life having many more such moments. 

Tell us about dance collectives! You're currently a part of Street Sisters. 
I've been involved in street dance in India for about 17 years now. I created India's first all-girl Hip Hop crew called Urbanista in 2011. I was invited to join Street Sisters by Tee J, a dancer younger than me, who is very active in the dance scene currently. We're a collective of 8 indian women dancers who have contributed to street dance culture in India. We have interesting plans for the future as a dance collective!

How important is it for girls to support one another? 
Support as a human being is essential - whether you are a man or a woman. But women coming together for creative projects (such as ours) is necessary, as women are often underrepresented. It also sends a positive message for younger girls interested in the arts.

Do you feel a strong sense of community with your sisterhood.
Yes definitely! It's really beautiful to see 8 women coming together and helping each other. There's only positive vibes - no arguments or competition of any kind. The girls are so supportive of each other. Some of us didn’t really know each other well before and have met only a handful of times, yet we feel like a sisterhood. 

Tell us about the energy of Bombay. 
Bombay means many different things to me at once. I've lived here 32 years and at different stages of my life it's held different interpretations. Bombay to me is a city of contrasts. It is home for me, yet some parts of Bombay feel so unfamiliar. I would say its energy is constantly fluctuating. 

What do you love the most about Bombay. 
My family, friends I’ve had for decades and the fact that it is home.

What don't you like about Bombay. 
Over population, traffic and pollution.

What is feminism to you?
I am a feminist. I've been a feminist since I was a little girl. As I've gotten older, I realised everything I did artistically has always been, in some ways, the little girl inside me with a big voice wanting to express what it means to be a woman in this world. To me being a feminist is celebration of womanhood, supporting other women and expressing yourself freely and without limitations.

Describe your style in 3 words.
My style is bold, creative and free.
What is strength to you?
Strength to me is the ability to be vulnerable when needed and courageous when needed. The strongest people I know are the ones with the softest hearts.
Last great book you read. 
Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
What are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to growing more and more into myself every day. I think the beauty of life is in the transformation through its journey.

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