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, Croydon, Crawley, Twickenham, Bromley and Orpington) across greater London. Training is offered in Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Mohiniattam, 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.
Pallavi began her training in Bharatanatyam with her mother Smt. Shalini Shivashankar at the age of 5 and continued to complete her arangetram in 2008 in Bangalore, India. She is the winner of Akademi's YUVA 2016, South Asian Youth Dance Competition and has presented several solo, duet and group recitals in the UK, India, Canada, Latvia and Dubai.
Pallavi has received further training in Chennai at Bharata Kalanjali School of Natya, founded by the Natyachaaryas, the Dhananjayans and has also been exploring the nuances of abhinaya with Smt. Bragha Bessel. She is presently under the guidance and mentorship of Sri. Mavin Khoo.
Pallavi has learnt and performed Mohiniattam and has begun her training in Mridangam, both of which have aiding her sense of rhythm and musicality within dance, complimenting her style, creating a balance between strength and grace.
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.
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.
Deepa Menon Gandhi
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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2012. 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.
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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.
Sarra is a Bharatanatyam Dancer and an Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Based in Cranleigh, Surrey, she teaches yoga classes online and at venues in Surrey and Sussex. Yoga enriches life whatever age or ability you are.
Sarra has a passion for movement and embodied spiritual practice through dance, song, music and yoga. She uniquely understands how Yoga can develop body awareness, strength and flexibility for Bharatanatyam. She has taught Yoga on the CAT programme for South Asian dancers at the Dance Exchange.
From 2003 - 2007 Sarra was a fulltime dancer with Anusha Subramanyam as Beeja. Alongside performances and funded creative projects they had an active community dance programme. Beeja's approach to teaching Bharatanatyam in schools enabled Sarra to develop her teaching of yoga to children. This incorporates Indian stories and creative movement alongside the yoga postures.
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.