“HAILING from the home of Bollywood, Mumbai, my dance journey started at a very young age when I followed in the footsteps of my sister Tanushree, a classical dancer. Since then, dance has carried me through many magical moments and brought me to Manchester, where I now teach others. In no particular order, here are 10 of those memorable moments,” said Sharmista.
Inspiration: Ever since my first stage performance at the age of three, my dancing idol has always been Madhuri Dixit. Her style and expressions have always inspired me to dance to express. So, whenever I get to see the iconic star dance, it is always a magical moment for me. My dream would be to choreograph for her.
Bollywood: Being a Bollywood buff from the 1990s, my entire world changed when my young eyes came across the cinematic masterpiece Dil To Pagal Hai. I was blown away by the amazing choreography and dance style that I had never seen before, and I knew this is the form of professional dancing I wanted to pursue in the future. It was pure destiny that my future mentor and teacher happened to be Shiamak Davar, the actual choreographer of Dil To Pagal Hai. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would be dancing on the same stage alongside the same amazing ensemble – Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Shiamak, 22 years later, during my performance at the 2018 Men’s Hockey Championship inauguration ceremony in India.
Finalist: Being one of the top 10 UK finalists in dance reality shows such as Boogie Woogie and Just Dance (UK auditions) are memories that will remain with me always. Just Dance was a memorable experience for auditioning in front of iconic Bollywood choreographers Vaibhavi Merchant and Farah Khan. As difficult as it was to clear multiple rounds of auditions, it was a moment of achievement being one of the Top 20 UK national finalists that year. My Bharatanatyam and hip hop fusion dance on the song Breathless reminded Vaibhavi of her initial days as a dancer (being a fellow Bharatanatyam dancer herself).
Magical mentor: My journey further led me to train under my mentor Shiamak Davar, a globally renowned choreographer and one of Bollywood’s finest. From him, I believed in myself more and carried forward the motto ‘anyone can dance’. I’ll always remember the faith Shiamak showed in me and his encouraging words, including him saying, “Sharmista, you are an excellent dancer and I want to shoot a video with you in the forefront”.
Performance: A dancer is always happiest when performing. Gaining professional qualifications combined with my experience of over 10 years teaching, performing and choreographing dance, opened many doors for me, in Bollywood and the creative industry here in the UK. I have been lucky enough to perform at many prestigious events such as Lux Golden Rose Awards, Mirchi Music awards and with Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Akshay Kumar, Varun Dhawan, and AR Rahman.
Night among the stars: During my backstage experience with the Shiamak Davar dance troupe at the Lux Golden Awards night, it felt like an illusion that I was among all the Bollywood stars around me, just casually socialising. It was a unique experience learning all the various aspects involved behind the scenes to make it a memorable night for everyone.
Teaching: It was an ambition of mine to bring true Bollywood culture to the UK. I wanted to incorporate all my knowledge and skills to teach Bollywood dance styles to people of all ages and backgrounds. So, starting my institute Sharmista’s Dance Classes has been a major highlight in my life. Being trained in Indian classical dance – Bharatanatyam – by my guru Girija Nair, along with western dance styles such as ballet, jazz, hip hop and salsa, my dream is to make Bollywood dance appealing and accessible to everyone.
Students: For over 10 years, I have also been an instructor for numerous organisations like Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Manchester and VOICE (Vedic Organization of Indian Culture and Education) and conducted many workshops for schools and colleges, corporate and community events. It is always a joy to see my students, whatever their ability, dancing, and even more magical is seeing them progress.
Volunteering: I have always believed in giving back and is why I am passing on my knowledge through classes. Other than performing and choreographing for major Arts Council and city council-sponsored events across Manchester, I have also been involved as a volunteer in organising many community and commercial events for Indian associations, temples and charity organisations. Volunteering always brings me the kind of joy I can’t describe.
Lockdown classes: During the unprecedented times we had to survive through last year due to Covid-19, I continued all my dance classes digitally. I also worked with several temples and organisations to conduct festivals and celebration events online, thus keeping the community spirit alive. Although it has been digital, it has been wonderful to see the dance spirit alive through lockdown. I am hoping to create many more magical dance moments and the thought of that keeps me motivated. My dream is to carry forward the Bollywood legacy and make it a commercial dance style on global platforms.
Sharmista B is a Manchester-based dancer, choregrapher and teacher. Visit Facebook: @Sharmista_Bollywood_Dancer & SharmistazDanceClasses and Instagram: @Sharmista_B