If you are a Bollywood junkie, your TikTok is filled with movie songs and dances from the 1990s to the newest decade. Lately, our feed has been brimming with dances by young people, dancing to the world-famous garba song Kamariya. This trend and the choreography was inspired by a viral dance video created by an Indian-American sister trio, the Jikaria Sisters. Now, with over 300K followers, the Gujju sisters are choreographing dances more than ever. Urban Asian spoke to these dancing queens – Omika, Rishika, and Aashika Jikaria about their passions, goals, and dreams. Learn more about their identity, role, and initiative in spearheading their popular TikTok and brand with about 4M likes!
1. You three are sisters and enjoy dancing! Tell us a little about yourselves.
Jikaria Sisters: We are a sister trio originally from Brooklyn, New York. Our parents immigrated to the US from Gujarat, India in the 1980s. All three of us were born and raised in New York City, and have grown up dancing together.
Omika, the eldest of our trio, is a rising second-year MBA student at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. She graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service with her Bachelor’s degree. Between college and business school, Omika worked in technology and social entrepreneurship in the US and Asia. She also is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Omika’s favorite dance style is salsa.
Rishika, the middle sister, is a recent graduate from Emory University, where she studied Political Science and Economics. During her time at Emory, she danced on Emory SaRaas, Emory’s collegiate competitive Raas-Garba Team, and she danced on Emory Karma Bhangra, Emory’s collegiate competitive Bhangra team. Rishika is excited to start law school in Fall 2020 and continue dancing. Rishika’s favorite dance style is bhangra.
Aashika, the youngest sister of the pack, is a rising fourth year at the Georgia Institute of Technology and she is studying to be an Industrial Engineer. She is a student-athlete on the Georgia Tech Official Dance Team Goldrush, where she performs on the sidelines at football and basketball games, and competes at the collegiate level in Daytona, Florida. Prior to attending Georgia Tech, Aashika attended the #1 performing arts high school in the country, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School. At LaGuardia, she trained to become a professional dancer by taking ballet and modern classes everyday for three hours. Aashika’s favorite dance style is contemporary.
2. When did you start each dancing? What inspired you to first start dancing?
Each of us began training in classical Russian ballet at the age of three, in Brooklyn. Soon after, we began training in other dance styles including Bharatnatyam, Ballroom, Jazz, and Contemporary. Once we began high school, each of us learned different dance styles. Aashika trained heavily in Horton and Graham, and she continues to dance on Georgia Tech’s collegiate level dance team, Goldrush. Rishika continued her dance training as a varsity cheerleader in high school and continued to dance in college, where she danced on both the competitive Garba-Raas and Bhangra teams. Omika also was a varsity cheerleader in high school, and after college, she trained as a semi-professional salsa dancer.
When we were young, we would go to ballet class because our mom told us to do so. However, as we grew older and developed a more personal connection to art, dance became an antidote to the stress of school. It quickly transformed into an outlet and a passion.
3. What drives you three to dance now?
As a part of a generation that is defining what it means to be a part of the South Asian diaspora, we are grateful to be shaping that evolving definition as dancers. We find inspiration in fusing the different dance styles that we have trained in.
The three of us also inspire each other to keep dancing. We hold each other accountable to our craft and push each other to strive for excellence.
4. Let’s talk about the @jikariasisters TikTok account. Tell us about your inspiration in starting the account.
Prior to coming back home to New York for quarantine, Omika was in Hanover, New Hampshire, at business school, and Rishika and Aashika were in Atlanta, Georgia, at college. Within our first week back home, we decided to make a couple of TikTok videos for fun. Within just a few weeks, our videos started to gain traction quickly. As we have gained supporters, our drive to keep creating has grown. As uncertainty, fear, and darkness are pervasive throughout mainstream media right now, we are grateful to have found a source of joy and positivity that we can share with others.
5. How did you all feel when your Kamariya video went viral with over 15M views?
We are floored by the love and support we have received on Kamariya. Watching hundreds of videos of people dancing to our choreography has been heartwarming. One of our first videos that gained traction quickly was a remake of the “Oh Na Na” challenge using dandiya (inspired by BFunk). We noticed that people enjoyed seeing us engage with our Gujurati identity. That inspired us to create a dance to Kamariya, one of our favorite songs (and who doesn’t miss Garba season right now)?! We were looking for any reason to throw on a chaniya and Kamariya was the perfect opportunity to do so. Kamariya was a defining moment in understanding our role on TikTok and our mission as the Jikaria Sisters. After Kamariya, we realized that there is power in our identities as South Asian Americans on TikTok; we are committed to showcasing our diverse experiences through our content.
Our dances to Kamariya, Dholida, Young Shahrukh have received over 1M views. We think people like seeing us wear lehengas and represent our culture with pride. We are honored to know that people find joy in watching our dances and are inspired to recreate our choreography.
6. Tell us a little about your dancing style and east-meets-west fusion.
Growing up, we felt as if our Indian and American identities were mutually exclusive; we did not think that both identities could co-exist. It was easy to feel as if engaging with our Indian identity made us less American and vice versa, mainly due to limited representation of South Asian Americans in mainstream media and in positions of societal influence. Once we went to college and met other South Asian Americans, we each became more comfortable with our unique, mixed identity. Now, we seek to bring that to our content. For example, dancing to Low by Flo Rida and Aaja Nachle in the same routine goes to show that we can incorporate both South Asian and American culture into our art. We are so glad that we can inspire young South Asian Americans and serve as examples of people who embrace our hyphenated identity.
7. Do you make some of the song mixes for your video? What inspires the songs for your dance video?
We love collaborating with fusion DJs and finding new songs that are catchy, unique, and fun to dance to. We specifically like mixes that allow us to merge different dance styles. We also often take note of song recommendations that we see in our comments. We recently decided to do Dholida because so many people asked us to do so in the comments section of our Kamariya video.
8. How does it feel now to get opportunities for partnerships with music festivals and clothing brands? Did you ever think your account/passion for dance would reach that many viewers?
When we first started our TikTok and Instagram accounts, we did not imagine that we would reach as many viewers as we have in such a short amount of time. We are grateful to now be able to partner with other brands and programs that hold values and stand for a mission similar to ours. We are excited to further our mission and reach through continued, meaningful partnerships.
9. What are your individual professional goals and dreams? Do you plan to integrate dancing in your life as you get older? If so, how?
Jikaria Sisters: We are excited to see what the future holds in store for us. Although all 3 of us have different professional goals, we are already thinking about ways in which we can continue to keep our pages going and dance together.
Omika: I am passionate about entrepreneurship, venture capital, and innovation, and hope to pursue a post-MBA career that allows me to combine those interests. My dream is to create and lead an investment fund focused on founders who identify as women of color. I am also passionate about health and wellness, and hope to incorporate elements of that space into my career. I plan to continue dancing semi-professionally wherever I end up. I especially enjoy both competitive and social salsa dancing, and I would like to continue training in Latin styles.
Rishika: My coursework and experiences in undergrad have sparked my interest in advocacy and justice, specifically in reforming the criminal justice system. I am excited to attend law school this fall and further my understanding of the legal system to become an advocate for important social issues in the future. Dance will continue to remain an integral part of my life. In law school, I plan to find as many ways to dance as I can (and hopefully join an alumni dance team). I want to continue learning new dance styles and continue growing as a dancer. Dance is a part of who I am and will always be a part of my journey, no matter where I am.
Aashika: After graduating college, I plan to work as an engineer in a Supply Chain role. I also aspire to join a professional NBA or NFL dance team, depending on where I am located. I have always dreamed of becoming a professional dancer.
10. Where can we find each of you when you are not dancing?
Omika: When I’m not dancing, you can find me practicing yoga, meditating, or cooking.
Rishika: When I’m not dancing, you can find me reading, learning how to DJ, or watching cute puppy videos.
Aashika: When I’m not dancing, you can find me solving puzzles (I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute).