"I had never learnt dancing formally. I was always that girl who would stand in front of the TV, dance and try to perfect the steps." says the former software engineer, who today has 11 million+ views on YouTube!
“Taking a risk for my dream was the best thing that happened to me,” recalls this young dancing star.
With more than four lakh Instagram followers and over 16 lakh subscribers on YouTube, Sonali Bhadauria has emerged as a youth icon and a mass influencer.
But her road to fame was never easy.
“Nothing came in a decorated platter, I had to work hard, fight for it and make my mark,” says Sonali, narrating her cinematic journey to the top.
She began as an ordinary girl-next-door, with dreams muffled under the beats of societal and parental expectations. Living with the hidden heart of a dancer, she settled for the ‘practical’ way of life–pursued software engineering and landed a job at Infosys.
But not in her wildest dreams had she thought that her ticket to fame was right at the corner.
“I come from a very simple middle-class family, where parents supported my dance as a hobby, but it would never be practical to pursue it as a profession. So I moved on with my life, hiding my dreams. I had almost given up on dancing, and then almost a year in the job, I found the dance club and joined in. And, that was the beginning,” Sonali tells The Better India.
She continued to live a dual life–of an engineer and a dancer–for quite some time. The dance club, Crazy Legs, created by Infosys employees, gave her the flexibility to practice after office hours and helped her go to various events and competitions.
She shares, “Slowly and steadily, I moved from copying steps to choreographing. And that earned me a lot of visibility and appreciation. I began to take it more seriously. It was at the group, that I met my husband who was also working in the same company.”
They decided to start a YouTube channel called ‘LiveToDance with Sonali‘, to record and document the steps she choreographed.
She said that the aspiration of being seen was “always there”, but she never thought it would roll into a success. Originally from Mumbai, she later moved to Pune for work.
As things got better and bigger, she quit her job and took to dancing full-time.
“At that time, it was my husband who stood beside me like a rock, despite most people advising against it. The year was 2016, and it was a huge risk to leave such a lucrative job, but I knew it was the right thing to do,” the 29-year-old dancer added.
She took up various events and wedding choreography projects, while regularly updating her videos on the YouTube channel. It was then in 2017 that her video on the song Nashe Si Chad Gayi, went viral, followed by another video on Shape Of You.
“It was so spontaneous, and I was shocked when that video earned me a spot at the contest for Ed Sheeran’s concert. My husband and I began to prepare and flew to London for it. Eventually, I won it, and realised that our videos had gone viral internationally,” she said.
Seeing the bulk of followers in London made Sonali realise the impact she had made both nationally and internationally. Although the concert won her fame, it was her consistent efforts to produce better videos for her channel that made her the star she is today.
With her followers on social media multiplying, Sonali began to soar higher. She added, “I was not just restricted to events or weddings now, I began to conduct workshops, and soon various contracts from the industry pulled me back to Mumbai.”
Amid the surging popularity, her lack of formal training in dancing did pose hurdles, although short-lived.
Sonali shared, “I had never learnt dancing formally. I was always that girl who would stand in front of the TV, dance and try to perfect the steps. But, it was through hard work that I taught myself dancing. It is a form of expression, just like writing or talking, which can be learnt to perfection, with time, patience and hard work. I have taught myself various forms and techniques of dance.”
She pointed out that there were instances when she met formally trained and skilled dancers who looked down upon her, but the number of those who respect her passion and approached her for collaborations was way higher.
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Today, as a youth icon, she has inspired thousands to express themselves through dance.
Speaking about her journey, she concluded, “I have been blessed with so much love that it’s hard to believe. But, every morning, I tell myself that it was all possible because I took a risk, put myself out there and worked my hardest. It’s important to do the right thing at the right time, with the right platform, and social media helped me do that. And, thanks to that, my career has indeed just begun!”
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)