Satish Shah

My name is Satish Shah, I was born in Kenya to a Jain family, Gujerati family and I came here when I was sixteen. Because my grandmother was very religious we used to have all of these religious functions at home and there’s lots of singing and clapping and that got me interested in singing. Basically I’m a singer before I become a dance teacher. There was a lot of community dance happening in Nairobi around me. So, that’s where I get… got all my inspiration I suppose.

My first teacher, as a proper teacher for classical dancing was Sunita Borewalla in this country. I used to do my own dancing just by watching and copying but when I was asked to choreograph a dance for a proper competition I then thought I must go and learn some proper dancing from somebody. And in the days, that was in 1976 I am talking about, there was no Bollywood dancing, there was nobody teaching folk. The only dancing was being taught in this country was Bharat Natyam and Kathak and Manipuri. I learnt a bit of folk dancing from her as well. Bahari dancing from Himalayas, Rajasthani dancing, then she taught us folk dances of Manipur, folk dances of Bihar, Assam. And then when Shyam bhai came, he taught more folk dances of Gujerat, Rajasthan, West Bengal.

My first job as a dancer? Well this was for the Nohana Community in North London. I did a dance choreography for a Garba item. The second major break came when Asha Bhosle the singer, was coming to do her first concert in UK. She was doing some Gujerati items. And they asked me to choreograph dances in the background for her show.

I used to be asked by lot of communities to do dance teaching here and there so after work I used to have classes for children from six years onwards teaching them folk dancing only. In those days I didn’t teach them classical, because if you taught classical to young children they would never come back to you because it’s all so tedious and all that. I have students from six to sixty basically. All kinds of people come to me.

My aim is to give them foundations of dancing in all kinds of different styles. And I start with a very easy step which a common man can do which is Rass Garba by Bhangra, common thing. Then I put them into semi-classical and classical. When you look at the basics of any dance, the principles remain the same and, as far as adapting it into Bollywood is concerned, you look at the song.

Although I am using Bharata… the gestures of the classical, I’m using the footwork of folk dancing. And that’s how I mix two together. The music I think is the one that em… that plays a big part into getting ordinary people interested. When that person understands it and then they can do it, they feel good about themselves. So they will want to learn more and more. People who come to learn just ordinary dancing from me. If they stay with me for a long time, I then introduce them slowly into classical dancing because I think that they must learn the discipline of dancing if they want to be a good dancer.

A lot of my dancers who have learnt, say, classical and folk with me, I encourage them to go and learn other styles like hip-hop, western styles, street dancing and make fusion and come out with a new style. So yes, if that keeps on happening and if the children are encouraged to do that, there will be new styles coming on and I think that there is a future there. I think so.