I am a dancer, photographer, filmmaker, and storyteller.
I'm an auntie, wounded healer, decolonizer, and liberationist.
My camera is an extension of my heart. To be photographed by me is to be seen by someone who has spent her life working with her body as a vehicle of expression, self-discovery and transformation. Dance is the river of life that informs and animates everything I do.
My aim is always to listen deeply and be in service to what the moment is asking. I bear witness, feel what's unspoken, and love to see people thrive. I believe that the unadorned truth is the most beautiful, and all we have to do is relax and get out of its way.
Nilaya Sabnis is a first-generation Indian-American dancer and photographer who was raised in two worlds—the suburbs of Pennsylvania and the city of Mumbai. She holds a BA in Economics from Wesleyan University. She received her training in Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) from guru G.V. Ramani in Mumbai, and her training in ballet, pointe, modern, and West African dance at the Alvin Ailey School in NYC. She danced on tour with Madonna, Cirque du Soleil, and A.R. Rahman.
It was during her years as a professional dancer, surrounded and influenced by some of the most powerful creative minds in the industry, that she picked up a camera to document her experiences around the world backstage, and discovered her love of visual storytelling.
After a decade on the road, she left the commercial dance industry to explore her relationship with dance as a spiritual practice and now works globally as a documentary and portrait photographer providing visual storytelling for nonprofit organizations and corporations looking to communicate the emotional impact of their work in the world. She also conducts portrait photography and movement sessions as a creative space for women to explore their personal power.
Her footage documenting the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Navajo Nation and with migrant farm workers in central California, is featured in Ron Howard's National Geographic film, "We Feed People", which was nominated for an Emmy award for best cinematography in 2022.
She is a certified teacher of the 5Rhythms® movement meditation practice, continuing in the lineage of her mentor, creator of the practice Gabrielle Roth, for whom Nilaya served as creative assistant and artistic ally for the last decade of Roth's life.
In her ongoing work in both photography and dance, Nilaya's mission is to be an amplifier of unconditional love, to defend, protect and support systemically excluded voices, and to give rise to a world in which the true shapes of our souls can thrive.