Sonia Sabri: U.K. Kathak Dancer & Choreographer

An Interview with Sonia Sabri

Ellen DeGeneres does it every day on her show. She moves people. Makes them smile. Gives them something to feel good about. Ellen DeGeneres dances!

For years, dance has played a role in lifting people’s spirits, telling stories and giving new perspectives on issues we wouldn’t generally speak about. Kathak dance is no different. The beautiful, historically rich dance style has touched people’s souls throughout many generations. As it continues to grow and evolve, South Asians participate in this dance from all across the world.

The U.K. isn’t any different. Rich with arts and culture, Kathak dance is one of the most watched South Asian dance forms in the U.K. Some of the best Kathak artists come from the U.K. and Sonia Sabri is one of them.

I had the privilege to learn more about Sonia and her company, Sonia Sabri Company. In part one of her interview, she speaks openly about her journey into Kathak. In part two of her interview, she tells us what we can look forward to in the coming months.

Ashima: Describe your background as a dancer/choreographer?

Sonia: I am a dance artist, choreographer and teacher in the style of Kathak. I am also the Artistic Director of Sonia Sabri Company. I started my training at the age of 8 with Nahid Siddiqui in Birmingham. And I trained with her for 11 years before I branched out to explore the world of dance. I started performing nationally and internationally at 14 years old through my teacher’s company and with other dance works.

In 2002 with my husband tabla maestro Sarvar Sabri, we started our own company – Sonia Sabri Company with aim to explore kathak dance and music in new ways and reach new audiences through touring and education work.

My parents were huge fans of Bollywood films and my dad particularly wished to be a Bollywood star. Coming from a traditional family and failed attempts in Mumbai he eventually settled in the UK, started his own family and carried the aspiration of becoming a Bollywood star through to me. My dad enrolled me into the Birmingham School of Speech and Drama and through a family friend discovered some dance classes at our local arts centre, mac. He actually had registered me for the Bharathanatyam class following his friend’s recommendation but because we reached the venue early we saw a kathak class was on so he said I might as well have a go at it. I never looked back. Over time my parents dream faded as they saw how immersed I was in Kathak and supported me all the way throughout.

Ashima: How does dancing/choreographing make you feel?

Sonia: It is indescribable. I think I am at my own self – without inhibition. There is something inside of me – which reaches out only when I dance or create work. I feel I’m living to the full when I dance. I feel if there was no Kathak in my life, there would be no life.

Ashima: I feel the same way when I dance Sonia! And I’m looking forward to speaking more about your work in part two of your interview. Coming to Fusia Online soon!