Natasha Nazerali is a professional dancer and choreographer residing in Los Angeles. Nazerali was born and raised in Vancouver, BC Canada.
At the age of 17, Nazerali moved to New York to pursue her passion of dance at a prestigious performing arts college: The American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
Due to her heritage, Natasha has recently developed an affinity for Bollywood dance and identifies Indian dancing not only as an art, but a spiritual practice. Today, Natasha dances
for a Bollywood dance company: “MKM Bollystars” where she works with legendary choreographers like Saroj Khan. On top of this, Natasha has been offered a position within internationally acclaimed company “AATMA Performing Arts” where she will join them on their world tour of “Mystic India” that will travel to South Africa, Europe, Australia, and throughout the US later this year.
Here is more about Natasha from my interview with her.
What inspired you to become a professional dancer?
From a young age I always enjoyed performing dance and putting on shows around the house for the family. My mother enrolled me in dance classes at the age of 5, and once I started dancing it just clicked. I felt most at home when I was on stage and the total freedom I got from performing in front of a live audience was something I knew I wanted to continue. So, I decided from early on that I wanted to make dance my career so that I could do what I love every day and share my joy and passion with others.
Who were your role models?
My mother has been one of my biggest role models throughout my career. She has always taught me that I can accomplish anything I set my mind on and she pushed me to follow my passion and do what makes me most happy in life. One of my biggest role models in the dance industry has been Misty Copeland; she is the first African American principal ballerina of the American Ballet Theater. She overcame adversity and so many obstacles to get to where she is today and broke through stereotypes in the dance world.
Why do you enjoy dance?
I love how the language of dance is universal. Growing up I was a technical dancer vigorously training in ballet, jazz, and contemporary. When, I later stepped into the world of Bollywood I discovered just how truly international this industry is. It’s amazing how it has fused so many cultures together. For example, when I was training with Saroj Khan and assisting her in workshops throughout California, often times she and the students would speak in Hindi, and even though I wouldn’t understand a word I could still completely understand the dance and the art and use it as a means of communication. It doesn’t matter where in the world dance takes you or who you perform for, the story is always communicated and the message always gets shared because dance is innate within all of us.
Tell me about the type of dance you perform.
I have always studied in contemporary, ballet, jazz, and hip-hop. I trained with programs such as The Joffrey Ballet School and travelled with Team Canada for the world championships and I always excelled in those highly technical styles and fell in love with them from early on. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I was introduced to Bollywood–the director of my studio at that time thought it might be fun for me to learn a Bollywood routine as a solo. I later performed that solo in a competition produced by Shiamak Davar and that was the first time I really discovered how truly vast the Bollywood industry is. I continued my technical dance training after that studying with The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York and Los Angeles, and thought I had sort of closed the door on Bollywood. Later, in a Bollywood workshop at AMDA I was scouted by the artistic director of MKM Bollystars Shivani Thakkar and upon my graduation she invited me to join her company as a dancer. She taught me so much about not just Bollywood, but Indian Classical Dance, and that was such a blessing for me as it allowed me to connect with a part of my heritage that I hadn’t quite yet discovered. Dancing with her led me to audition for AATMA’s “Mystic India: The World Tour” and that has brought me to where I am today.
Tell me more about your development of affinity for Bollywood dance and identifying Indian dancing not only as an art, but a spiritual practice.
I can vividly remember being sixteen and competing in the Shiamak “Summer Funk” Show. I had made it down to the final 3 and I had never (besides learning my routine) taken a Bollywood dance class or Indian dance class in my life. I remember watching Shiamak’s company perform soon after mine and thinking “that’s exactly the way I dance”. I had
always been very expressive on stage and had certain quirks and facial expressions that were always very unique from other dancers. And when I looked at his dancers and the way in which they performed I could see myself in them. I now know how specific Indian dancing is and how these specific expressions and movement of the eyes are all part of their story telling and are all dictated within that dance style. However, that was something I always did naturally (well before I ever learned Bollywood) so I think it’s definitely something that must have come from my heritage. And the movement in Indian dancing seemed to feel very organic in my body. When I ended up coming first and winning the cup in that competition, I realized this was something I had a talent for and should try and pursue it further and incorporate it within the styles of dance I was doing and use it as an advantage when I start my career. When I started dancing for MKM Bollystars and really honing in and learning the art of Indian Dancing, all the mudra’s and the rhythms I really appreciated the art within it. I loved how specific dances were created as an ode to a god/goddess. Performing dances to the Ganesh prayer and the Shiv Tandav allowed me to understand that Indian dancing is not just an art and is not necessarily about entertainment value but it is about spirituality at it’s very core. And dance for me my whole life, even before Indian dancing, has always felt spiritual and has always been a form of higher consciousness, so Indian dancing really resonated with me. Because not only am I learning new ways of movement, but I’m learning about spirituality.
Tell me more about your new opportunity with AATMA Performing Arts and your world tour.
I was hired by AATMA in March 2016 after I auditioned
for them in New York. They produce the show Mystic India which is an hour and a half production that goes through all the regions of India and uses classical Indian dancing as well as Bollywood to take you on a journey through the country. Learning the show was a challenge, because the show
incorporates dancing from all regions of India. Each routine within the show is extremely unique and calls for different types of movement. My very first show that I did with them in Miami, I was in 18 different pieces. It was a whirlwind, not only making sure I executed all the choreography precisely, but even just making sure I changed into the elaborate costumes in time was one of my biggest hurdles. I have so enjoyed performing the show and it is extremely exhausting because the show is so high energy. But the songs, and the pieces are iconic from India, and so the audience, whether Indian or not cannot help but fall in love with it. It’s been so much fun to be able to perform it and I cannot wait for the new cities and countries we will take it to this fall and within the new year.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Still dancing and performing of course! In the next 5 years I really hope to create a solid and reputable name for myself within the dance industry. I am extremely humbled and grateful for the opportunities that Bollywood dance has created for me in my career, and I truly believe I will incorporate and do it for the rest of my dance career. However, I still have my affinities for contemporary, jazz, and the commercial side as well and so I really want to continue to hone in those styles too.
Anything else you want to add about yourself or your dancing career?
I just think it’s a really important life lesson in general, not just as a dancer and artist, to step outside your comfort zone. I stepped outside of mine into an industry and style I had never even imagined I would do. And it has led me to so many amazing and exciting adventures. You never know, where something can take you, and although something may seem challenging or uncomfortable, overcoming that will make you into not just a better artist but a better person.