“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once” thus spoke Friedrich Nietzche the famous German philosopher. Srishti Arya is one such dynamic young lady who decided to chuck her career as a Content Manager to pursue her passion for dancing and turned it into a success story for herself. She was working at a Digital Marketing Agency and doing quite well for herself as she likes to write. But the 4 hour commute to and from her office (from Kandivali to Fort) was getting to her. So, one fine day she just quit her job as she was starting to develop neck and back problems because of carrying her heavy laptop in the train everyday.
Srishti has been a dancer since she was a child, participated in several stage shows, college events and was known as “Jumping Jack
” because she couldn’t stay still even for a moment. But it never occurred to her that she could make a career out of it as she had always treated it as a hobby. Once she quit her job, she did not feel like taking up another one. She was spending her days eating, sleeping and dancing…over and over again. Slowly it dawned on her that she was enjoying the dancing more than ever. She would put on music and just dance it out for hours together, choreograph random routines, watch a gazillion dance related YouTube videos and practice them later. And all of a sudden, she had an epiphany- she was born to dance (and to teach dance!). Happy Dancing Feet (HDF) was thus born a year and a half ago. It is a young, fun dance & choreography house that caters to choreography requirements for Sangeets, shows, events, festivals and classes. Their forte however, is Weddings. HDF is the one-stop destination for Wedding Sangeet Choreography and Dance instruction. They have everything right from total Bollywood style to ballroom sequences, from simple dance based choreography to fairy tale like musicals (with props and concepts and what have you). HDF customizes it all to suit individual needs.
Srishti says that the USP of HDF is that they make sure they understand the likes and dislikes of the bride and the groom, their family background and their preferences before they plan and design the Sangeet. Though they specialize in Sangeets, they also undertake dance classes, personal training workshops, choreography for corporate shows, college festivals, anniversary functions and
Srishti believes that dance has tremendous power- power that can change, heal and lend expression to one. That is why, HDF seeks to spread happiness and healing through dance. Dancing involves technique but what it really needs is a soul and when one loves something, it flows through them.
Needless to say, wedding season is the busiest for Srishti and at times she winds up her work at 1 in the night if she has Sangeet rehearsals. Even on days full of work, dance classes, meetings, rehearsals and socializing this dynamo of a girl finds time to assist her sister in her training and developing business called “The Unleash Program”. She is also co-founder of a NGO “ Young Innovators Foundation” that takes care of the education of tribal kids and is also a freelance writer with one digital marketing agency called “Co-create” and an app called “TaskBob”. She feels that multi-tasking keeps her life exciting and enriches it.
Even for a spirited girl like Srishti, the challenges of a start up and that too in the dance and choreography industry are many. Getting a team together is not easy; finding people who are aligned to her vision and philosophy is one thing, paying them to work full time is another challenge. She cannot obviously compete with the established dance houses in terms of finances. She has managed to build a team of 5 through networking and socializing. She pays them on a project basis. Srishti’s middle name is multi-tasking and with HDF just being in its nascent stage, she has to take care of admin, accounts, legal, marketing, choreography, content and graphics, audio and video editing, planning, co-ordinating, strategizing, outreach- pretty much everything! It has taught her time management and she is looking to delegate more as her team expands. Also, she finds tools like Evernote, Google calendars and iCal really helpful in organizing herself.
Getting a studio space is expensive and buying or leasing is out of the question at this stage. Also, it doesn’t seem fair to give 40% of one’s hard work to the studios towards payment. She has her parents and family to thank for providing the solution to this one. With their co-operation, Srishti has converted her living room into a home studio. She installed an AC, put speakers and a few studio mirrors and got going. Though her family doesn’t mind the 100 decibel music playing every evening and strangers walking in while she takes classes, Srishti does adjust her class timings if her mom has a meeting or her brother has exams. She has also worked out a barter with a couple of studios that agree to give her their space in exchange of her services. Another challenge that Srishti faces is the resistance from people who have fixed mind sets and are not ready to experiment with anything new. Also, people are usually looking for big names and want labels like “Danceworx” or “Shiamak Davar”. In such cases, HDF offers them a trial or show them other instances where a similar thing has worked out. When people see that it works, they are more willing to try it out.
Collaborating with others from the same industry makes good sense. It’s always better to be friends rather than rivals. Sonal Devraj of Beat n’ Bounce and Pooja Thanawala of Dance Mania are two people whom Srishti treats as collaborators. She always gives their contact if she is unable to take up a project. They help each other in promotion and fill in for each other. This creates synergy for all of them- a very healthy approach.
Srishti plans to get HDF partially financed once her branding is stronger. Partially, because she doesn’t want her missin getting dissolved just because someone else is financing it. She puts aside half of her earnings in the savings fund for HDF as soon as she gets paid. This forms her working capital.
She says that though she may not have learned dancing professionally, she has put in a lot of hard work and constantly attends workshops in different styles to ensure she keeps upgrading. She feels that versatility and learning new styles of dance and staying fit are all equally important. In fact, she plans to take professional jazz classes soon.
As per Srishti, networking, attending lots of events and having a strong social presence are the most effective ways to get new clients. Also, when you service your current clients with full dedication and make sure they are happy with your work, they will surely bring in more clients as word-of-mouth publicity is the best. For other business owners too, she advocates being on time, trusting one’s instincts and investing in the people one hires. In difficult times, her best stress-buster is dancing. She thinks of why she started HDF in the first place and recalls the happy faces of her clients and their support and encouragement. She also loves to teach- she teaches at her NGO and at her sister’s training and development company. She also used to teach at HR College, Mumbai. Choreography is another form of teaching. Srishti feels that she is a better teacher than she is a dancer and that a teacher is also a healer. When she sees people smile, laugh and have fun, she sees a part of her mission coming true and that gives her immense satisfaction.
Srishti’s favourite quote is “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep teeling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it” by Jordan Belford and she herself says “Nothing worth having comes easy. It’s false.” She is inspired by three women in her life: her sister- who Srishti feels makes things happen with her belief, her best friend Dhwani who is an extremely giving and happy person and Dancehall Queen Jahanvi Sheriff, a dear friend whom Srishti admires for her focus, discipline and talent. Speaking of her business philosophy, Srishti says that she does not treat any wedding as a commercial deal, instead she and her team put their heart and soul to make the special day memorable for not only the couple but also for the guests. She also believes in having fun, spreading joy, love and healing through dance. It is towards this end that one day she plans to start dance movement therapy and eurythmy to help people to heal through.
We shall leave you to watch a great mashup with Srishti performing and the one she choreographed: