When Niketa Kou PO ’25 was injured last semester, she felt like she couldn’t do the one thing she was born to do — dance. But as she began the process of recovery, she focused not on the injury but how to cope with it. Her story is one of resilience.
Kou started dancing when she was five years old.
“I was really young and like a lot of other dancers I was put into dance by my parents,” Kou said. “But it wasn’t really until sophomore year of high school that I discovered contemporary as a style and that’s when I really fell in love with dancing, and I started to… search for competitions or performances.”
For Kou, dance helps to relieve stress.
“Whenever I dance, it’s the only time when I’m super concentrated, and I don’t get distracted at all,” she said. “It’s about being creative and expressing yourself.”
The meaning of dance extends beyond creativity and expression for Kou; it also has helped her gain a community.
“I’ve had such great friends, dance mentors and buddies,” Kou said. “It’s just so much fun because we have a common language, which is dancing, and it’s amazing to see how we can communicate without talking.”
“We really got to know each other from the dance and met each other outside. It was just so much fun, even outside of dance, and it was a safe space. I could always fall back into that. I know that these are the people that … I can trust.”
Kou was a dancer in last year’s dance department show, “In the Works,” which also helped her find a dance community at the 5Cs.
“We really got to know each other from the dance and met each other outside,” she said. “It was just so much fun, even outside of dance, and it was a safe space. I could always fall back into that. I know that these are the people that … I can trust.”
However, Kou had an injury in December which changed the course of her dance journey.
“People asked me whether my injury was related to dancing, and honestly, I slipped on rocks in Hawaii over winter break, and I fractured my right ankle,” Kou said.
She recalls it being a difficult time for her for reasons beyond just dancing, as it challenged her in doing day-to-day tasks.
“It was just hard to get in and out as well and do laundry,” she said. “Simple things like that. But I think going through that period really made me appreciate my friends so much more because they helped me even with the most mundane things that I couldn’t do by myself. This was so important to me, someone being there.”
However, Kou accepted this challenge and learned how to work with limitations.
“I questioned ‘what can I still do with those limitations?’ or ‘what can I do differently?’” she said. “This started my recovery journey.”
While she struggled with these limitations sometimes, she has also found the injury has let her choreograph in ways that she wouldn’t have explored before.
“Last week, we had an assignment of choreographing ‘something for yourself that makes you feel comfortable and uncomfortable,’ but I had a really tight outer IT band. And I really couldn’t stand, so I thought I couldn’t choreograph,” Kou said. “But my professor suggested that maybe I could choreograph something sitting on a chair, and I ended up choreographing something that’s awesome.”
For Kou, feeling lost during her journey was incredibly hard. However, documenting her progress on social media helped her gain self-love and kindness.
“I think, for me, the hardest part of recovery specifically was losing track of where I am sometimes,” she said. “However, documentation has always been a thing that I love to do. And documenting helped me look back and realize how far I’ve gone … When I started documenting my recovery, I rewatched videos two weeks before and it helped me realize I improved in this way. I felt like I was getting better every day.”
The process of her recovery has given Kou a new perspective on things to focus on after an injury.
“I think being honest with yourself and relying on your friends is the best piece of advice I can give to someone who is recovering from an injury,” Kou said. “Because they want to be there for you. When you want to just cry or when you’re not feeling well, just remember it’s totally fine.“
While her injury doesn’t define her, it has helped her grow.
“When I fractured my ankle, it felt like I was actually heartbroken,” Kou said. “But the things I’ve learned on this journey have made me who I am today.”