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About Upahaar

Upahaar School of Dance was founded by Shalini Shivashankar with the simple desire to share the joy experienced from expressing and communicating through dance. Upahaar was started in Croydon, South London in 2003 and now has 6 centres (Sutton, Crawley, Twickenham, South Croydon, East Croydon and Orpington) across greater London. Training is offered in Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Mohiniyattam, Carnatic Vocal and Mridangam. 


One of the core philosophies of Upahaar is that dance & music enhances one’s mental and physical health and can therefore be learnt and performed at any age. The school aims to bring Indian classical dance to every sector of the community through its various activities and events, highlighting the organisation’s commitment and dedication to promoting arts. Upahaar curates the now well-known Nrithya-Upahaar, a biennial international festival of classical dance. Workshops by acclaimed artists from around the world are organised regularly. In addition, Upahaar spreads awareness of these classical arts through lecture demonstrations in schools and other institutions.

Upahaar takes pride in offering high quality training by a team of well qualified and dedicated teachers. Our students have performed in prestigious venues across the UK, including the British Parliament, the Queen’s Gallery (Buckingham Palace) and the British Muesum. Students have won awards at national level competitions and frequently appear for exams offered by the boards: ISTD (Natya), ASIM (Sangeetha) and PRSSV (Mridangam).

Upahaar Dance Company

The Upahaar Dance Company is a semi-professional core group of well-trained dancers who undertake intensive training in Bharatanatyam under the guidance of Guru Shalini Shivashankar. They present both traditional Margams as well as thematic productions and have been actively performing across the UK since 2014 and abroad since 2017, including Chennai’s Margazhi festival. Through regular presentations, they reiterate Upahaar’s objectives of promoting the arts and making it available to one and all.


To view the dance company brochures click on the links: Bharatanatyam Brochure | Mohiniattam Brochure



Shalini Shivasankar
Artistic Director & Head Teacher

Shalini Shivashankar started her training in Bharatanatyam in her early years with late Guru Smt Padmini Ramachandran. She further trained under the tutelage of Smt. Shyamala Surendran and Smt. Radhika Shurajit, - both senior disciples of the world renowned Natyacharyas, The Dhanajayans.

Simultaneously, Shalini trained in Mohiniattam under various Gurus, commencing briefly with Kalamandalam Sarawathi (Calicut) and then delving deeper into the art form with Smt. Sreedevi Rajan - the daughter of the doyen, late Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttyamma.


Shalini has performed both forms of Natya widely in India and in a few other countries such as the Middle East, Canada, Latvia and UK. She taught young students for several years in India and Bahrain until she moved to the UK in 2002. Here in the UK, Shalini founded Upahaar School of Dance in Croydon in 2003 with a few students. In 2019, Shalini was awarded Milapfest's Nritya Acharya Ratna - distinguished teacher in dance, for her outstanding contribution to teaching dance.

Read more about our Gurus here

+44 (0) 7811 823684 |

Daniella Zak Varghese
Bharatanatyam & Mohiniattam Teacher

Daniella started her training in Bharatanatyam, Carnatic Vocal and Violin in 2002 under the guidance of Smt. Vinothini Bharathan. In 2012, she began training in Bharatanatyam and Mohiniattam under the tutelage of Guru Shalini Shivashankar. 


Daniella is a graduate from CADT Yuva Gati and won 1st prize at YUVA 2015. In 2018, she worked in the Natya Project and in 2019, completed her Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam Arangetram and was included in Akademi’s list of ‘40 under 40 South Asian dance artists to look out for in the UK’. 


In 2017, she began training in Mridangam under the guidance of Sri. Prathap Ramachandra and began learning Nattuvangam in 2020 under the guidance of Sri. K.S. Balakrishnan.

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Pallavi Anand
Bharatanatyam Teacher

Pallavi began training in Bharatanatyam with her mother Smt. Shalini Shivashankar (Director of Upahaar School of Dance, London) at the age of 5 and continued to complete her arangetram in 2008 in Bangalore, India. She later received further guidance in Chennai at Bharata Kalanjali School of Natya, founded by Natyachaaryas, the Dhananjayans as well as with Smt. Bragha Bessell.


In addition, Pallavi explored Mohiniattam briefly and has begun her training in Mridangam and Nattuvangam, aiding her sense of rhythm and musicality within dance. She was the winner of Akademi's YUVA 2016, South Asian Youth Dance Competition and more recently has received the 'Natya Ratna' award from Trinity Arts Festival, Chennai. She has presented a variety of solo, duet and group recitals in the UK, India and abroad and was recently touring globally as one of the principal dancers in Akram Khan Company’s ‘Outwitting the Devil’. Pallavi continues to train and find her voice under the mentorship and guidance of Sri. Mavin Khoo.

Piya Varma
Bharatanatyam Teacher

Piya Varma began Bharatanatyam training at Nrityangaharam Academy of Fine Arts, Mumbai under Guru Smt Anjana Dongre in 2005. After moving to London, she resumed her training under Guru Smt Shalini Shivashankar in 2014 at Upahaar School of Dance. She completed her Bharatanatyam Arangetram in September 2019.


She has performed in solo and group presentations with the Upahaar Ensemble at a variety of locations around London and India, including The British Museum, The Bhavan, Rich Mix London, as well as Sahrdaya Creative Spaces and Art on the Terrace, Chennai. Piya also began her training in Mohiniattam under Guru Smt. Shalini Shivashankar in 2019, further developing body control and artistic technique. She is the Marketing Executive in the Upahaar Team.

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Sahana Sridhar
Bharatanatyam Teacher

Sahana is a Bharatanatyam performer and educator based in London. Her initiation at a very young age into the world of Bharatanatyam, carnatic vocals, and painting sowed the seeds for her passion for the arts. Sahana commenced her training in Bharatanatyam with Smt. Shankari Balasubramaniam, after which she trained with Guru Udupi Laxminarayan for three years until 2006. She was under the tutelage of Sri. Renjith Babu and Smt. Vijna Vasudevan for close to 2 decades. Currently, she continues to explore her artistic pursuits in the UK under the guidance of Sri. Mavin Khoo.


Over the years, Sahana has evolved into a sensitive solotist with over a decade of performing experience across eminent dance festivals and chamber concerts in UK, India, USA, Italy and Spain. She has also featured in notable ensemble works by Sāraswatham Foundation, Jiva Performing Arts-NYC and Kalasagara-UK. Previously, she was a member of the teaching faculty at Sāraswatham Foundation, India, where she trained beginner and intermediate-level students. Sahana has a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture, and dual-Master’s degree in Advanced Architecture and Urban Design and firmly believes that her design focused educational background enhances her aesthetic thinking and lends texture to her dance.

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Rithika Nair
Junior Bharatanatyam Teacher

Rithika commenced Bharatanatyam classes at the age of 5, under the tutelage of Shalini Shivashankar, at Upahaar School of Dance’s Sutton branch, in 2012. Simultaneously, she began her training in Carnatic Music under the guidance of Swapna Srikanth. Besides Bharatanatyam and Carnatic vocal, in 2020, Rithika began her training in Mohiniattam with one of Upahaar’s Mohiniyattam teachers, Daniella Zak Varghese, and now continues with Shalini Shivashankar.


Rithika has performed across the UK at locations such as the Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan, Fairfield Halls and Skanda Vale temple, as part of Upahaar’s Ensemble group. In 2023, Rithika was selected as the senior winner of ISTD’s Bursary Awards and won second place at the Croydon Performing Arts Festival. She completed her Arangetram in March 2024.

Deepa Menon Gandhi
Kathak Teacher

Deepa has been part of the Kathak faculty at Upahaar Dance School since 2011. She is a very senior disciple of Guru Padmashri Pratap Pawar (MBE) and has trained under him in the Lucknow Gharana for more than 16 years. She has extensively performed in the UK and in India. She continues to teach with a strong desire and passion to keep the rich traditional aspects of the dance form alive for future generations to experience.

Abirami Eswar
Kathak Teacher

Abirami Eswar is a Kathak dancer, teacher and choreographer based in London. As Guru Padmashri Pratap Pawar’s senior disciple, Abirami has learnt the nuances of traditional Kathak specialising in the Lucknow gharana, which emphasises on style and grace with speed and complexity. Whilst she remains true to traditional Kathak as a solo artist, her performances with other artists and leading companies both in the UK and abroad has showcased her ability to blend her dance with other art forms with grace. 


Abirami’s dedication to Kathak and the performing arts has brought her recognition as one of the UK’s 40 under 40 South Asian Artists in 2019. Her work aims to push her creative boundaries while keeping their roots intact. She is extremely humbled to have had these opportunities and she believes hard work, loyalty and dedication will reap the rewards.


Prathap Ramachandra
Percussion Teacher

Prathap Ramachandra is an Internationally acclaimed South Indian Percussionist, who specialises in playing Mridangam, Ghatam, Khanjira and rendering Konnakol. He started his career as a performer at a very young age and has taken his sounds to some of the biggest stages in the world and has performed in some of the biggest festivals around the globe.


Prathap has been present in the British music scene for over two decades, his musical journey consists of accompaniment to world-renowned artists from India and abroad and cross-cultural collaborations in music and dance that have allowed him to craft interesting approaches to Indian rhythms. His unique perspective on percussion has led to the creation of his own band “Rhythm Yatra” which can be translated to “Journey of Rhythm”, displaying a flamboyant side of Indian Classical Music.

Kalpana Segarajasingham
Carnatic Vocal Teacher

Smt. Kalpana Segarajasingham was initiated into Carnatic Music by her father, Pannisai Vithagar S Kanagasabai. She gained further guidance from Ganapathy Pillai, the Director of Music of Northern Province in Sri Lanka. Kalpana graduated from Ramanathan Academy of Fine Arts in 1996 with a degree in music and fine arts. A well-known, successful teacher, she is committed to teaching at London School of Carnatic Music for the past 18 years, Croydon branches of Upahaar School of Dance for the past 5 years and Croydon Academy of Eastern Arts. She continues to receive guidance from Kalaimamani Bhushany Kalyanaraman. She has moulded several students who have pursued their own careers in Carnatic Music. 


In 2020, Kalpana was awarded the title ‘Sangeetha Kala Vidushi’ by the Oriental Fine Arts Academy of London for her great work over the past 20 years. She is the Director of her own school ‘Sahaana Sangeetha Sabha’ founded in 2010.

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Rukshena Ravindran
Carnatic Vocal Teacher

Rukshena started her Carnatic Vocal training under the guidance of Smt. Manorama Prasad in 2003 at Wimbledon Shree Ghanapathy Temple and completed her Vocal Arangetram in October 2015. 


She underwent further training under her Guru after her Arangetram and has been teaching in the Sutton and Twickenham branches of Upahaar since 2018. She has also undergone intensive training during Summer Courses from Sudha Raghunathan and was part of SAMYO in 2009. Furthermore, Rukshena regularly sings for Upahaar events and Arangetrams.

Avinash Acharya
Carnatic Vocal Teacher

Avinash Acharya learned Carnatic Music for over 7 years under the guidance of Vidushi Rajamma Keshava Moorthy (Bangalore) and Vidushi Sarojamma (Mangalore). He has completed the Junior & Senior level exams (degree equivalent) conducted by the Karnataka SSLC board. He regularly performed at Akashavani Bangalore and Mangalore between 1989 and 2000.


He has won many district and state level awards and accolades in solo and group singing, including the National Award for Akashavani Group singing in 1990 and was a Level-2 artiste at Akashavani Mangalore (1997-2000). Since 2013, Avinash has been actively teaching Carnatic Music to children and adults in the UK. 

Rithika Segarajasingham
Carnatic Vocal Teacher

Rithika was initially introduced into Carnatic Music at the tender age of three under the guidance of her mother. She has attended various workshops with well-known artists such as Sudha Ragunathan. At the age of 9, Rithika went through intense training in India for a year with Kalaimamani Bhushany Kalyanaraman.


After finishing her diploma and graduating in Carnatic Music, she delved into the art form further and currently teaches at Upahaar Croydon and London School of Carnatic Music in Lewisham. Rithika has performed on numerous stages where she has showcased this fine art and has received many awards. Rithika further wishes to develop her knowledge of Carnatic Music and continues to train towards her Arangetram.

Ledshajini Segarajasingham
Carnatic Vocal Teacher

Ledshajini began her Carnatic Music journey at the age of three under the guidance of her mother, Smt. Kalpana Segarajasingham. To progress, she had intensive training from leading artists Sudha Ragunathan and Bhushany Kalyanaraman for many years in India. After completing her diploma and graduating in Carnatic Music at the age of 12, she began teaching the fine art in London School of Carnatic Music in Lewisham and Croydon Tamil School in Mitcham for numerous years. Ledshajini has performed on numerous stages and temples across the world, and has receieved the title ’Sangeetha Kalajothy’ for her achievements.


Currrently, she is a full-time Microbiologist dedicating her passion towards Music and teaching at Upahaar’s Purley Branch since 2021, whilst continuing to perform on many stages. Ledshajini regularly sings for Upahaar showcases and events and is grateful for the opportunities given to develop her growth in Carnatic Music.



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Vidur Varma
Yoga Teacher

After a 22 year career at Citibank, Vidur Varma took a career break in June 2018 in pursuit of spiritual progress. Vidur graduated from the Yoga Teacher Training course at Sri Sri School of Yoga in Bangalore after months of rigorous and disciplined training. He is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance, and also teaches for Sri Sri School of Yoga regularly. His drive to share the focus and energy he developed through Yoga, pushed him to establish his school 'Vaidurya Yoga' in 2019.

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