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Shalini Shivashankar 

Full Biography

Guru Smt. Shalini Shivashankar is the Artistic Director of Upahaar School of Dance, a premier institution in the UK that offers training in Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Carnatic Vocal & Mridangam, to students of all ages.


Shalini started her training in natyam in her early years, from the late Guru Smt Padmini Ramachandran - Artistic Director, Natyapriya, Bangalore. As a teenager, she was the recipient of the National Talent Search Scholarship for higher studies in natyam and the recipient of several accolades and awards, including the 'Kalathilakam' while at university. Guru Smt Shalini has since pursued further training under the tutelage of two senior disciples of the Padmabhushan awardees - Natyacharyas, The Dhananjayans. They were Guru Smt Shyamala Surendran, Founder of Dharani School of Performing Arts, Kochi and Guru Smt Radhika Shurajit, Artistic Director, Thrayee School of Bharatanatyam, Chennai. Shalini still continues her training from Smt Shanta Dhananjayan and Sri VP Dhananjayan.


Guru Shalini has also trained in Mohiniyattam, commencing briefly with Smt. Kalamandalam Saraswati of Calicut and then delving deeper into the art form with Smt. Sreedevi Rajan- the daughter of the doyen- late Guru Smt Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma. Shalini has performed both forms of Natya widely in India and in a few other places such as in Bahrain, Canada, and Europe. 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. Upahaar now has several branches across greater London and follows a structured syllabus offering training in Bharatanatayam, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Carnatic vocal and Mridangam. The Upahaar Dance Company or youth ensemble consists of young semi-professional artists who perform regularly across the UK and abroad. 


Upahaar curates the now popular international festival of classical dance Nrithya-Upahaar and organises several workshops and demonstrations to spread the practise and awareness of Indian classical natyam and sangeetham amongst all ages. 


Guru Smt. Shalini Shivashankar's primary objective is to carry forward the legacy of Gurus and sincerely transfer these beautiful art forms to anyone of any age whilst instilling in them discipline, dedication and devotion towards these arts. She was honoured with the Nrithya Aacharya Ratna in 2019 by Milaptest UK and recently received the Vidushi or Nrithya Rathnakara award from Griffin College  UK for her outstanding contribution to teaching dance in the UK.

Our Gurus

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The Dhananjayans

Bharatanatyam Gurus

The popular dancing couple of India, Vannadil Pudiyaveettil Dhananjayan and his wife Shanta Dhananjayan are amongst the most accomplished dancers and teachers of Bharatanatyam. On the auspicious day of Vijayadasami, October 18th, 1953, Dhananjayan was initiated into two art forms – Kathakali and Bharatanatyam. Besides graduating in politics and economics, he is a postgraduate in Kathakali from Kalakshetra, Chennai. Dhananjayan was also one of the leading male dancers under Rukmini Devi, Founder, Kalakshetra.

Born on 12th August 1943, to a well to do Indian family in Malaysia, Shanta Dhananjayan had been showing an ardent passion towards dance from the tender age of three. Walking into the campus of Kalakshetra as young as 8, Shanta, a child prodigy had an inborn response to dance and joy of movement. With Rukmini Devi as mentor and Chandu Panickar as the guru, she was an outstanding student in Bharatanatyam and Music. Holding a Post Graduate Diploma with a distinction in Bharatanatyam, she has also learnt Kathakali and Carnatic music from Kalakshetra.


The match made in heaven was matrimony realized at Kalakshetra. A partner on stage becoming a partner for life was a dream come true for Shanta & Dhananjayan. They stepped into a life dedicated to dance in the staff quarters of the Kalakshetra Campus where both of them served as faculty. There is never a moment that passes without Akka and Master stating, “Whatever we are today, it is because of Rukmini Devi and Guru Chandu Panicker.”

Padmini Ramachandran

Bharatanatyam Guru

Guru Padmini Ramachandran was born in Kerala's Mavallikkara on September 8, 1944. She was brought up in Chennai and started learning Bharatanatyam under Pandanallur Chokkalingam Pillai. She went on to learn under Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai and performed her arangetram with his guidance. She sprung to popularity and was scouted by several directors which led to her flamboyant yet brief stint with cinema. Her most noteworthy works were Narthanasala opposite N.T. Rama Rao, Iruvar Ullam opposite Sivaji Ganesan and opposite Raj Kapoor in Dil Hi To Hai where she danced in the popular song "Laaga chunari mein daag." Many more opportunities beckoned her into acting but she gave it all up to pursue her true passion - dance.


Having strived over 40 years, she was honoured by the government and private organizations alike. She received the Natyarani Shantala Award, Kannada Rajyothsava Award, Karnataka Kalashree and the title Bharatha Shikaram to name a few. She has choreographed innumerable dance ballets. The most popular were Sambhavami Yuge Yuge, Himaswetha, Vittala Darshana, Ashtalakshmi, Durbagobathi Elokeshi, Kitoor Rani Chennamma, Navarasa Gejje, Natyarani Shantala and Koravanji. Over a decade ago she set up her dream project 'Nrithyakshetra' upon being granted an acre of land by the State Government. She successfully set up an auditorium and conducted classes till her last days there.

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Shyamala Surendran

Bharatanatyam & Mohiniyattam Guru

Shyamala Surendran began her journey of dance at the age of 34 under the tutelage of Shri. C E Janardhanan and later under the world renowned dancer duo Shri. V P Dhananjayan Smt. Shanta Dhananjayan of Chennai in 1982. She performed her Arangetram at Guruvayoor Temple and since then she has performed at various venues in India and abroad. In 1986, she moved to Chennai to learn further from Dhananjayans and detailed lessons in Abhinaya from Padma Bhushan Smt. Kalanidhi Narayan. Thereafter she went on to become the disciple of Smt. Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, the doyen of Mohiniyattom, and her daughter Smt. Sreedevi Rajan.

Radhika Shurajit

Bharatanatyam Guru

She is an established Performer, Teacher, Choreographer, Media Visualiser and Television Director. Radhika trains many students at her institution "THRAYEE" in Chennai. She has choreographed several unique dance productions which are very popular globally. She is a trend setter in creating Dance productions for Stage, Television and the Celluloid media. She travels extensively all over the globe with her Performances, Lecture demonstrations and Dance workshops for the last 3 decades. She has also directed several music and dance shows for television networks in India and the world over.


Radhika has choreographed several National Award Winning Songs for Feature Films and has had the rare opportunity to work on Music of Maestro Ilayaraja, Oscar Awardee A R Rehman, Vidyasagar, Ramesh Vinayakam and many others. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards, like the first GLOBAL ACHIEVER AWARD  conferred upon her at the House of Parliament in London in June 2019,  KALAIMAMANI from the Government of Tamilnadu 2011, Aacharya Choodamani from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Best Dance Guru award from the Madras Music Academy, Kala Seva Bharathi from Bharath Kalachar, Honarary Citizen Award from Oklahoma State University in United States and many more.


Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam Gurus of our Head Teacher and Artistic Director Shalini Shivashankar 

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Sreedevi Rajan

Mohiniyattam Guru

Guru Sreedevi Rajan stands as a revered figure in the realm of Mohiniyattam. Her profound contributions have significantly enriched this classical dance form. Collaborating with her illustrious mother, the "Mother of Mohiniyattam," Guru Kalamandalam Kallyanikutty Amma, Sreedevi has played a pivotal role in shaping and expanding the boundaries of Mohiniyattam. With a career spanning over 7 decades, Sreedevi Rajan has garnered numerous accolades, including the prestigious Kalasree Award from Kerala Sangeet Natak Academy and the Kalasagar Puraskar. 


Smt. Sreedevi's artistic endeavors extend to choreography, literature, and performance. Leveraging a postgraduate degree in Malayalam literature, she seamlessly integrated the masterpieces of distinguished Malayalam poets into Mohiniyattam, infusing her performances with profound literary richness. Sreedevi Rajan's comprehensive work, "Mudrakhyam: A Visual Dictionary of Mohiniyattam Hand Gesture," was published in 2012.


Teaching at Kerala Kalalayam for over 40 years and directing Nrithyakshetra for the last 36 years, Sreedevi Rajan aims to instill a love for Indian classical dance forms among the youth. Smt. Sreedevi Rajan has conducted lecture demonstrations and performed Mohiniyattam repertoire across various states. She serves on selection committees for Mohiniyattam exams conducted by the Ministry of Human Resources and Cultural Development and the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training.

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