Rakhi Sood

My name is Rakhi Sood and I’m British born and I’m a professional teacher, choreographer and performer. I have done lots of acting and modeling. And my parents are originally from India. My dad born in Ludhiana, but raised mostly in Rajasthan. My mom born in Africa, in Dodoma and been to Gujerat, back into India.

When I was in her stomach, from that day onwards she was just saying, I want this girl to be a dancer. I think I was about three or I was about four, she took me to a dance school and I actually wasn’t really into to it. So she took me out of it and put me into ballet. I did a bit of ballet, I did a bit of jazz, a bit of tap. Kind of getting into it slowly, slowly so she thought… mm… I want her to have the ethnic kind of interest, so then she put me back into dance. And I was good at it. Whatever the teacher was teaching me, I picked it up in like seconds! I always used to be first in my class. In the Kathak class. My first teachers was Priya Pawar and Alpana Sengupta.

My dad wanted to build a dance school so we named it Vedic Cultural Society and we didn’t start it in London. We actually went to Holland to start it because there was a great interest there ‘cause I’d been asked abroad to perform. Because I think from a very young age, I think it was like eight I started performing quite a lot in mandirs and Holland, there was somebody that picked me up from a mandir here, they wanted us to perform in Holland and from there they wanted us to start teaching. So I actually started teaching at the age of fifteen, sixteen, in Holland.

In the first ten fifteen minutes that I do a class introduces you to Kathak, to Bharata Natyam, to a bit of yoga, to a bit of breathing, even pranam. So I think, in that core fifteen minutes I think that’s where the discipline starts. There’s one thing that I use throughout no matter what style I do is my Kathak pranam.

we do a beautiful Kathak piece which we go from old to new. Now it starts with Shakti which is a beautiful Shiva nrittya that opens and blends into ‘Pakiza’ which is from a different style altogether and then it goes into ‘Umraow Jaan’ then we take on another trance piece from like Buddha Bar and Tigers. Yeah, and that is trance music. It’s got tabla, it’s got sitar but then it’s got a really beautiful funky beat. So we’ve incorporated our Kathak within there.

We’ve got a piece of Irish music and we’ve put complete Kathak to it. With footwork, and hand gestures, and spins and integration of space and the way we connect and come out is just amazing, and people… Since I’ve done that performance piece I’ve been… I’ve had so many show bookings. I want that piece. I want that piece. I want that piece. So it’s really really becoming popular. The beats aren’t there. I’ve created my own. And that root is only Kathak because of the timing, the rhythm, the rhythmical cycles that we use like Tintal and Dadra and, there are so many taalas.

When I choreograph I tend to visualise it. Then I do it. Then I’ll forget it. And my students will pick it up and say, no you did this. I’ve had somebody say this to me. ‘You are the first Bhangra dancer that I have known that does Bhangra so gracefully.’ And I think it’s because of my Kathak.

But Indian culture itself has dance in everything. So Bollywood, therefore, has been bought into it. It’s becoming so well known and so integrated.

I’ve had lots of students say we don’t the disciplined style, you know, the learning for years and years and years and years. But I say to them, look, Kathak does take years. But I’ve made it friendly in the sense. The way you blend it, the way you fuse it, the way you make it more friendly to today’s youth. I think that’s what attracts them and that’s what brings them in.