When children her age would only think of their upcoming board exams, Niharika Prakash – a disciple of world-renowned Odissi dancer Ranjana Gauhar – is leaving no opportunity to showcase her craft on the international stage. An eleventh-grade student of Modern School, Barakhamba Road was introduced to the art of Odissi dance at a tender age of seven, and since then Odissi has become an integral part of Niharika’s growth. With time she has learned to strike a balance between academics and her passion for dance. Also Read – Add new books to your shelf”I began dancing when I was seven. Back then, there wasn’t much academic pressure, but with time the work burden increased. Studies are hard, but I can confidently say that dance has helped me to perform better academically. It has taught me the importance of discipline and hard work,” says Prakash, adding, “There is no half-heartedness, there is no room for complacence for a dancer. Dance demands you give it your all, which is what I have tried to do. I wouldn’t have done any better at studies if I didn’t dance. Over the years, I have learned to prioritize, to multi task, to work hard and persist. I still spend 3 hours a day in my dance class and yet manage to get 90% and above.” Also Read – Over 2 hours screen time daily will make your kids impulsiveThis dedicated pupil knows there is no substitute for hard work. The young dancer – along with Utsav Dance Troupe – has performed at multiple prestigious events, including the Konark Dance Festival, the Khajuraho Dance Festival, Sangeet Natak Akademy (Imphal and Delhi), Kurukshetra Mahotsav, and regaled audiences in Spain and Argentina. On being asked about the most memorable experiences in her career, Prakash narrates the time when she was selected to represent her school (Raghubir Singh Junior Modern School) in an inter-school exchange program held in Boardilla Del Monte, Madrid, Spain. (In 2012). “I was ten and barely knew how to dress myself up. I had to muster up the courage to perform my first solo in front of hundreds of little Spaniards. It was a cold morning and the entire school of Teresa Berganza in Boardilla Del Monte was out in the court to watch me perform. I was so anxious. The music played, I began to dance, bare feet on the cold concrete ground of the school field. The audience was so appreciative of the performance that the children imitated my eye gestures and hand movements for days.”Every classical dance form has its own specialty and each person views a dance form differently. Niharika was more drawn to Odissi than any other style of dancing. “Odissi appealed to me as a confluence of grace and strength. A dance form with delicate eye and neck movements, supple torso movements yet rigorous footwork,” she says. Recalling how her grandmother and mother have always taken a keen interest in Indian culture, Niharika feels a tad nostalgic. “When I turned three, I tagged along for dance recitals and cultural events and learned to appreciate Indian art. This is how it all started,” she says.