At a recently held UK-based dance contest held at the Balaji Temple in Birmingham, acclaimed choreographer Sonia Sharma’s students won the 1st prize for Best Cinematic Dance in a competition organised by the National Council of Kerala Hindu Heritage, UK. The winning dancers aged between 11 to 14 years represented the Greater Manchester Malayalee Hindu Samajam.
The winners – Kirun Biju, Nikita Biju, Priyanka Geemon, Hariharan Nandakumar, Bhadra Nair, Haritha Nair, Shreya sharat Nair, Varadha Nair, Vidhya Nair, and Arjun Renjith are all students of dance at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Manchester and performed to the Shri Ganesha song, using the traditional Maharashtra folk form of lezims as a prop. The music and choreography was by Sonia Sharma.
Those who regularly attend the Manchester Mega Mela, Manchester Dassera and Diwali Mela are familiar with folk-dance artistes in Manchester, would know of Sonia Sharma’s Soul Beats troupe, distinct and recognisable, even from a distance by their long bright coloured skirts and unique dance styles. Their guru Sonia has given opportunities to several amateur and dance enthusiasts to showcase their talent and explore their interests in performing arts.
Sonia lives with her family in Manchester and juggles between a hectic work, family, and dance schedule. Employed full time with the Manchester Council’s Manchester Adult Education Centre as an IT tutor, Sonia conducts six dance classes during the weekends.
She leads dance classes at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Manchester Malayalee Association and has been a regular performer and dance teacher for over a decade in Manchester.
To give shape to her passion to create more acts, Sonia joined hands with Megla Naidu and the two gurus gave birth to the Soul Beats Dance troupe a year ago, to explore fusion dance forms like Flamingo with Rajasthani folk. At the recent Manchester Mega Mela, Sonia presented short segments fused with Salsa, Bhangra, Kathak, and Bharat Natyam.
She believes that her teaching “helps students to bring to the surface their hidden potential and talents and to draw out their strengths” which is the key objective in her teaching – both in computers and dance.
Driven by the thought of engaging her students with philosophy and meditation, Sonia believes this calm state of mind results in better creative forms. Her passion for dancing and painting since childhood has led her to continue dancing, despite having a full-time career and leading a hectic life.
Sonia hails from Dehradun, in the northern Indian state of Dehradun, that has strong roots in folklore. This led her to cultivate interest in folk dances. She honestly admits that she hasn’t learnt any classical dance form but it’s her sheer determination, effort, and observation that has helped her to follow different genres of dance. Bhangra and Lavani from Maharashtra are two of her favourite folk dances forms from India. Kathak appeals to her as it allows “to express a lot”, she claims.
Recently the Indian association organised a popular Manchester Day parade where she was involved in the designing through to execution of the project which involved 80 participants to showcase India’s diversity through dance forms. She is currently elected as a volunteer on the Managing Committee of the Indian Association Manchester and a committee member at the Manchester Mega Mela.
Sonia has her hands full serving Mancunians with voluntary service through her dance. She strongly believes, “Dance is a form of expression which allows individuals to transcend the harsh spaces they inhabit in their everyday lives. We believe that dance is a form of artistic medium to showcase the spirit of emotions, expressions, and creativity”. We wish her luck and hope her troupe wins more accolades and hearts.
Rahul Laud wears many hats. He is a senior journalist, and works as the Associate Editor of Asian Lite, based out of Manchester, UK. He is the Curator and Facilitator of SAJDA Festival and is a regular volunteer for the Art of Living and the IAHV global charities. He is a musician himself and teaches the tabla to the younger generation of music enthusiasts.