Life / The Refined Collective

PAYAL KADAKIA // NYC PROFILE

11.30.17

Payal Kadakia // Photos c/o Kat Harris, The Refined Woman // Written by Kitty Williams for The Refined Woman

“The energy of New York will always be a feeling of lightning”

 

“The energy of New York will always be a feeling of lightning,” says Payal Kadakia. Various areas of New York City serve as constant reminders to her of fond memories like past offices, performances, and achievements.

Kadakia is the founder and artistic director of the Sa Dance Company as well as the founder and executive chairman of ClassPass.

ClassPass is a fitness membership app through which users can sign up to attend a wide variety of fitness classes rather than be tied to a single class and therefore a single activity.

With ClassPass, users can take a barre class one day and a water aerobics class on another. They are given the freedom to try activities, to fail at some, and to fall in love with new ones they may have never discovered had they made a commitment to do the same activity every week.

Kadakia takes great pride in the growth she has experienced through using ClassPass. “It teaches you a lesson that’s greater than you being able to do that class,” she says. “It’s being able to triumph over things.”

She measures success by setting goals and accomplishing those goals. One major goal of hers is to have a positive influence in the lives of others. She has accomplished that goal through ClassPass in a major way. “We’re close to 40 million reservations, and the reason I think about reservations is because that’s time. That’s 40 million hours of people’s lives that we’ve had our hand in,” says Kadakia.

ClassPass’s vision statement, “every life fully lived,” is a reflection of how intentional Kadakia is when it comes to spending time. She created ClassPass with the intention of bringing people back to the moments when they feel truly happy.

“If you can spend [your time] doing things that are soul nurturing, that are inspiring, that are authentic and you are present in them,” says Kadakia, “the more hours of your life you can spend like that, the more fulfilled you’re going to be.”

For Kadakia, that means dancing. However, there was a time when she felt guilty for that passion. She felt as though people around her didn’t understand why she would make time for dance as she was growing a business.

The guilt brought on by this didn’t last too long, though. A friend came over as she was pondering the balance between dance and work, and they choreographed a dance together. “It helped me kind of break through it,” says Kadakia. “Dance helps fuel my creativity, not just in the dance studio, but also in the workplace. It’s because I’ve nurtured my passion for dance that I’ve had the sense of purpose, creative energy and drive to grow ClassPass into the thriving business it is today.”

She never wants to feel guilty for doing something she loves, and this idea – that everyone should feel empowered to take care of themselves and cultivate their passions – has become a core value at ClassPass. ClassPass hosts an annual employee talent show to celebrate employee passions, plus the company offers generous benefits like unlimited vacation, flexible work hours, and free ClassPass memberships in support of this core value.

Intentionally spending time doing what she loves is what brought her to create the Sa Dance Company as well. “I really wanted to share the roots of Indian culture,” she says, “and I wanted to do it through dance.”

Kadakia was born and raised in America but is drawn to her Indian roots. “Some of it is a longing of making sure I don’t forget it,” she says, but also “making sure the world doesn’t forget it.”

At the age of three, Kadakia was introduced to Indian dance. “We used to only dance in our basements because there was no platform for Indian dance,” she reflects.

Since then she’s become an accomplished dancer, as her list of New York performances has extended from flash mobs on the streets of the city to stages in Bryant Park and at Lincoln Center.

Kadakia has a history with New York and a future with Los Angeles, though she has homes in both cities. Los Angeles is where she gets to spend the most time with her husband and where she is building new things for ClassPass. New York feels like lightning to her, so what does Los Angeles feel like? “Sunshine,” says Kadakia with a big laugh.

Kadakia never focuses too far into the future because she recognizes that as human beings, we shift in our goals and aspirations. “I’m allowed to change,” she says, certain of the unknown. “I will never be one thing.” One thing remains certain, though: this life is fully lived.

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