In Conversation with Vena Ramphal
Our series continues where we ask leading specialists about themselves and their field.
This month we are featuring Vena Ramphal, a dance artist and stage presence mentor who has featured on BBC, Sky News, Channel 4, GQ, Cosmo, and Marie Claire. She supports brilliant women to shine more brightly and connect with their audiences more deeply.
She has coached and run workshops on ‘Tearing up the Good Girl Script’ for the last 13 years with clients all around the globe. And her new podcast ‘Notes from the Stage Door’ (life lessons from classical Indian dance) is on apple, spotify and on her youtube channel. Her work is underpinned by a spiritual approach that brings people out of their heads and into their bodies.
We love her elegant take on life, both on and off the stage.
Tell us about your involvement with classical Indian dance. When and how did you become involved and what influence has it had in your life?
I started attending classes in classical Indian dance when I was six. I had seen a stunning performance of classical dance and had this sense of recognition, of being absolutely drawn to the presence, the costumes, the whole feeling of it. In that moment the trajectory of my life was set.
Dance has taught me everything I know about how to navigate life and live well. I did my PhD in philosophy and dance at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, 2006). since then, I’ve developed a philosophy of the body that is rooted in the aesthetics of classical Indian dance which offers a sophisticated understanding not only of the physical body but the human condition itself. It is a complete yoga in itself.
You work closely with many successful public-facing women wanting to get to the next level as a stage mentor, what has that been like?
Yes, I work with public-facing women to cultivate strong stage presence. I’m done with seeing less capable men dominate stages - online and IRL - while supremely capable women hesitate to take the spotlight. It is my mission to nurture female leaders in every field claim their place on the top stages in their professional arena.
Holding the attention of an audience requires strong presence. This doesn’t start when you’re standing in the wings wishing you’d chosen flats instead of heels. Strong presence is the result of daily practice. Tending to our wellbeing is the foundational practice. It is worth repeating that we can only nurture others when our own cup is full.
What is the one thing we can do to look after our wellbeing on a daily basis?
Take a few moments for solitude every day. It doesn't need to be time consuming, and it doesn't need to be meditation. Three deep breaths is enough. But try to do it every day and try to do it at the same juncture in your day. First thing, as soon as you sit up in bed is a good juncture. This builds a tendency whereby your whole body looks forward to, recognises, and welcomes the practice.
Solitude is nurturing, especially for women. A moment when you can withdraw your attention from the habit of giving; drop all the pulls on you and slip into solitude mode. Our body-being is resourceful and creative. It just needs this moment of commitment from you - this moment in which you give it the space to self-nurture. Presence starts to develop in that space. And we can build stage presence on that foundation.
What is the ‘the good girl script’ and how can we all ‘tear it up’?
The good girl script is the one that says, ‘You shouldn’t be doing that BECAUSE you’re a girl.” I came up with the phrase in about 2008 when I started running workshops on ‘Tearing up the Good Girl Script.” This script in its many variations holds us back from expressing our full potential. Every time we break a pattern of limitation that’s been imposed on us, we tear up that script.
The most powerful yet challenging place to start is to look at the limiting patterns you inherited from your mother. Replace those - it takes time - with choices that are true to your nature and potential.
What are you most proud of?
The way that I’ve created a unique professional path for myself. It has not been easy or straightforward and I’m sure I’ve made many mistakes. But I’ve been true to that moment of recognition that was experienced as a six-year-old watching the dance performance.
What are you working on now and where next?
On the 8th January 2024 I launched my podcast ‘Notes from the Stage Door.’ I share the life lessons that I’ve received from classical Indian dance and offer plenty of tips on stage presence and wellbeing.
All my work this year is organised around the sentence, “She who tells the story shapes the world.” I’m repeating it to all my clients and working with them to create the stories that will shape the world that we all want to see - harmonious, nurturing, peaceful, plentiful, beautiful. There is a quickening in the world right now. There’s no time to lose with getting those supremely brilliant women - like you - onto the top stages in your field. This year is pivotal.
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