Hi, I’m Honey Kalaria. I work as a Bollywood ambassador to the UK and my working profession is a choreographer and a dancer. Really, I was born in Malawi, Africa and when I was about eight or nine years old I came to this country and I grew up here. A lot of my work is also done in India, and when I was four years old, my mum was my first guru. She taught me my first Bollywood dance. When I went on stage, I came back with first prize.
When I was thirteen years old, I went on stage for the first time in the UK. It was a charity show. I had two promoters who came to me. I was very lucky because I did have my mum who, of course, was my guru and, I would say, my manageress. She looked after me very well and ensured that I performed dancing as an artist, not just as a dancer.
As I carried on performing from the age of thirteen, thinking it was a normal thing to do traveling all over the world from Monday to Friday, I started joining dance classes. When I started joining dance classes, I studied Latin American dancing, Rock ‘n’ Roll, disco dancing at that time and I think that also helped to expand my knowledge base in dance. I started learning how to move my body in different ways, understood different tempos, even Middle Eastern dance. I studied raqs sharqi, belly dance which they raqs sharqi. So I even learnt how to isolate certain body movements and utilise that in my Bollywood dance.
I remember when I really, really wanted to learn Indian classical dance. I said to my dad and my mom that I want to go to the ‘Bidya Bhavan’ which was the only place in this country that I knew of at that time who taught Bharata Natyam and all the classical dancing. So my mom and dad said, ‘Hey! Why don’t we send you to India. Why don’t you go to India and learn Bharata Natyam there. We will get you the best teacher, the best trainer down there. I wanted to study Kathak, again my mom and dad said, ‘Look, why don’t you just go to India. Get the best Kathak teacher that you can find there.’ So I learned all the story-telling through the Kathas, as they say, through Kathak, and from Bharata Natyam I learned all the postures and all the poses and fantastic rhythm that you learn from the classical base.
A lot of people think that Bollywood dancing is just about moving and traipsing around and running around the trees. Whereas, for me, Bollywood dance is a mixture of many different dance forms. I had a Bollywood promoter who contacted me and he said, ‘Honey, would you be interested in choreographing a Bollywood concert.’ And I said, yeah, no problems. I’d love that. I was sixteen years old.
So there I was, thinking let me set up an academy which teaches Bollywood dance. And that made it a niche market. There were no other Bollywood schools in this country at that time. So I looked into it and I thought, so many people are commenting and trying to put me off. Why is that? I’m not even getting one person saying ‘Go for it.’
My three objectives, when I do my work was, first thing, personal development in young people. What I mean by personal development is when you learn dance it’s not just about coming along and learning dance, it’s about building confidence, self-esteem, team building skills, getting leadership qualities in place, being able to work with other people on stage, learning how to work.
My aim from this whole thing is using the world of Bollywood as a vehicle to teach people about Indian art and culture.