Arati Menon

My name is Arati Menon and I am 15 years old and I was born here in England. My family are from South India and my mother is Tamil and my dad’s Malayalam, so I have grown up with, learning about, loads about the Indian culture and that’s how I also developed my love for Bollywood and Bharata Natyam.

I loved watching Bollywood movies and seeing how the great actresses danced and one of my favourite idols is Aishwarya Rai, and then there’s also Madhuri Dixit and Shree Devi and then there’s the classical dancers like Hema Malini which inspire you to do Bharata Natyam and then there’s Shobhana… there’s millions of people that have all helped to inspire me to take up the different dance forms.

I started doing Bharata Natyam very early, and my Bharata Natyam teacher since then has been Padmini Guneseelan.

I started Bollywood more recently and I learnt that under Honey Kalaria and I also do hip-hop, ballet, tap, modern, street and contemporary.

Bharata Natyam really it helps you get the discipline for dancing and it’s really helped with my stamina, also for Bollywood, and also a lot of the postures and hand gestures and even the facial expression. It all really helps with the Bollywood because Bollywood has bits of everything and that’s how Bollywood helps the Bharata Natyam because it’s so versatile and it also makes you, it made me think more about the audience and how they are going to be looking at things so you find ways of entertaining the audience more.

When I started with Honey I wasn’t actually a very strong Bollywood dancer and she’s definitely helped me a lot, because she’s such a big inspiration, she’s such a beautiful dancer and watching her and watching her expressions helps you really get the feel for Bollywood dancing and obviously all my other dance forms have really helped with posture and expression as well, but watching Honey I have picked up on how to entertain the audience with slight glances in different directions and the tiny subtle things that make Bollywood dancing more enjoyable to watch.

I love the way different types of dancing I’ve never learnt before are introduced. So you get tastes of all the different types of dancing which… that’s one of the things I like about Bollywood dancing ‘cause, whereas other dancing forms like Bharata Natyam have a set structure with only with only certain moves in it, which is also great, Bollywood incorporates loads of different types of steps.

I teach bits and bobs when I’m needed but I’m still, I’ve still have a lot to learn from Honey. I teach with counts so that they know exactly how it’s going to fit in to the music and you break it down so you don’t just teach a whole step in one go. You teach the arms first and then you teach them what they are doing with their feet and the rest of their body, where their head’s looking, is it looking at their arm or is it looking up or down and have they got the right expression on their face, so you need to teach every little bit but not in a big chunk. You need to really break it down for students, so that they understand exactly what they are doing and they get every bit perfect. Y ou start from the basics, and first you learn all the feet movements and then you learn all the hand gestures on their own. You learn the head gestures. You learn everything, bit by bit. And this is what helps me break down all the different parts of Bollywood dancing for the student.

My dream would be to act in Bollywood movies, like every young girl, Indian girl’s dream would be. So… em… yeah, it’s high hopes. But hopefully, my Bollywood and Bharata Natyam training can help to get me there