Founded in 2016, Studio J is an independent dance studio which brings together the wide & varied forms of Indian dance, under the one roof. Our huge range of classes offers everything from Indian classical dance to Bollywood, folk & modern cross-cultural. Studio J celebrates the diversity of Indian dance, whilst also respecting its traditions. Our teachers are Melbourne based artists of South Asian heritage, who are highly trained and specialised in their unique art forms. We aim to spread the love and culture of Indian dance by making it accessible, engaging and relevant to all audiences. The only dance studio of its kind in Australia, Studio J has evolved into a thriving community of adult dancers from all walks of life!
JAYA KARAN, DIRECTOR
Jaya is owner and director of two dance companies, Studio J and Sapphire Dance. A dancer-entrepreneur at heart, Jaya has been the driving force behind both companies success. Jaya started dancing as a hobby in her early 20’s, and eventually decided to learn Bharatanatyam at the age of 32. Since then, Jaya has gone on to choreograph, teach, perform and work with some of the best in Australia’s dance community. Having personally experienced how dance can create positive change, Jaya feels strongly about encouraging others to dance at any age. Jaya is also a physiotherapist and passionate about the impact dance can have upon mental, physical and social wellbeing. Read more about Jaya in our full interview here.
JOSHINDER CHAGGAR, WELLNESS PROGRAM MANAGER
Our Wellness Program Manager, Joshinder, has been dancing, choreographing and teaching since 2002. One of the first Bollywood dance instructors in Melbourne, she released Australia’s only ‘Get Fit with Bollywood Dance’ DVD nationwide in 2006. Joshinder later moved to Pakistan, where she was one of the leading choreographers in the country at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA). She works extensively in theatre, TV and films and has toured and performed internationally in Germany, Malaysia, Dubai, Australia and India. Joshinder completed her Honours in Dance Research and is currently completing her PhD in Arts & Education at at Deakin University. Brilliant at teaching across all age groups, Joshinder is known for her friendly and happy nature which makes all our first timers feel immediately at ease! Read more about Joshinder in this interview!
Gerard has the rare gift of being an equally exceptional dancer, teacher and choreographer. Gerard has trained extensively in hip hop, Bollywood, contemporary, jazz, Latin and commercial. He is founder of Provokativ Dance and is respected as one of the best in the industry. A highly sought after artist, Gerard has worked on countless shows, festivals and events throughout Australia & internationally, including the recent sell-out stage productions by BASS FAM Creative. Gerard is also dancer and choreographer for Melbourne’s premiere Bollywood dance group – Sapphire Dance. Adored by his students, Gerard’s classes frequently sell out at Studio J. Read more about Gerard in our full interview here.
With over 18 years of dance experience, Ida is a Kathak dancer who trained under guru Shri. Harish Gangani. She has trained across all three gharanas (styles) of Kathak – Lucknow, Jaipur and Banaras. Ida was one of the youngest to complete her diploma in Kathak and went on to complete her bachelor degree in the dance form. Ida also attended the Terence Lewis Dance Academy in Mumbai, and later moved to Melbourne where she completed her Honours in Psychology at Melbourne Uni. An experienced performer, Ida has graced the stage across India, Europe and Australia. Ida currently performs with Sapphire Dance as a Bollywood & Kathak dancer-choreographer. Ida teaches “Bolly Kathak”, a concept merging classical and commercial arts forms of India. Read our interview with Ida in our dance blog!
Govind Pillai is one of a few Australian male practitioners of Bharatanatyam. With an international track-record of sell-out productions and festival appearances, he has choreographed, directed and performed at venues and events including the Victorian Arts Centre, Sydney Opera House, Midsummer Festival, Woodford Folk Festival etc.and has roles as Director of Karma Dance, Board Member of the National Theatre (St Kilda), Lead Male Dancer of Sanskriti Dance (Sydney), Vice President of Flare Dance Co. (Melbourne), and Dance Advisor elect to the Federation of Indian Music and Dance Inc (Victoria). Read more about Govind in his interview here!
Laki has been dancing since the age of 5, and is a multi-skilled Bhangra, Bollywood & Bharatanatyam artist. She co-founded and coaches Ranjhe, an all boys Bhangra team. She has performed on a wide range of stages including the MCG, Melbourne Convention Centre, Rod Laver Arena, as well as opening acts to numerous celebrities’ concerts including Sidhu Moosewala and Salman Khan. Laki currently performs with Sapphire Dance, as well as running her own Bharatanatyam dance school, Natya Praana.
DIVYA SHREEJIT KUMAR
Divya Shreejit Kumar is a Bharatanatyam artist with an active practice in performance, teaching and choreography. Learning from the age of five, she completed her Master Diploma in Bharatanatyam under Smt. Priya Dinesan. Her 25 years of classical dance practise includes a brief stint at Mohiniyattam. In Melbourne she joined Karma Dance and resumed her training with Govind Pillai – presenting her solo graduation performance in 2017. Since then, she has progressed her training in interrelated aspects of the art including rhythm, notation, composition and choreography. Read more about Divya here!
Sathiya has been dancing, teaching and choreographing for over 13 years, with experience in South Indian dance, Bollywood, Tamil folk and locking. Extremely passionate about South Indian cinematic dance, he formed a college dance crew before later joining Sherif Dance Company in India. Sathiya has choreographed for numerous events, including Tamil reality TV shows, and has performed throughout Melbourne and Chennai. His career highlight was performing alongside Prabhu Deva for the Indian Premier League. Sathiya brings an authentic South Indian street style to Studio J.
Having fallen in love with Shakira’s moves, Raksha started learning and performing in 2006. She trained extensively under teachers from India and across the globe. With experience of over 5 years in choreographing and teaching this beautiful art form, she has trained 800+ students, has been invited as a master trainer in various belly-dance festivals, and helped organise the biggest belly-dance festival in India – ‘Arabella’. One of her achievements in her illustrious association with this dance form, has been that of providing belly-dance training to Bollywood actress, Jacqueline Fernandez. She is excited to spread the same love in Melbourne and at Studio J!
Sonya has been dancing for over 17 years. She has trained in multiple dance styles, including in Bollywood, Bhangra and Odissi. Sonya was part of Shiamak Dance Academy for 10 years, and later co-founded her own dance company – LAKS Dance Crew. Sonya has extensive experience in performing, teaching and choreographing. A Zumba certified instructor, Sonya has also been teaching Bolly-Fit for the past 5 years, and loves combining her passion for fitness and dance.
Hitesh started dancing with The Danceworx (Delhi) in 2008. He quickly progressed to the highest level in the academy, before being accepted into their performing arts company in 2010. He has trained in multiple styles under international choreographers. His experience ranges from jazz, ballet, contemporary to street. Described by The Danceworx as “Highly versatile, Hitesh is a natural and highly gifted performer who exudes a quiet confidence that has a certain presence on stage…in many ways (he) is the defining presence of the performance.” Hitesh brings a wealth of experience, maturity and versatility to his classes at Studio J.
Rashan started learning Kandyan dance in Sri Lanka, at the age of 10. He later went on to learn Bharatanatyam, and graduated from the Kalakshetra in Chennai, India. Rashan was the first Muslim Bharatanatyam and Kandyan dancer in Sri Lanka, and his dedication to dance has been unwaivering. Since arriving in Melbourne 4 years ago, Rashan has continued teaching and performing across Melbourne with his company Pravaha Dancing Foundation. He hopes to share his knowledge of dance with the next generation and make his mark on the Australian artistic landscape. Read more about Rashan in our dance blog!
IAIN SOUMITRI, PHOTOGRAPHER & VIDEOGRAPHER
Iain graduated from Melbourne University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2020. A creative at heart, Iain has a passion for writing, photography, and videography. He is currently working as a freelance photographer and videographer, and can be found behind the lens at Soumitri Studio.