Abu Dhabi: They have danced into the hearts of millions of YouTube viewers in the past couple of years. Now, they have also entered the book ‘Rebel Girls-Powerful Pairs’, the latest from the publishers of New York Times bestselling ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’ series.
Meet Abu Dhabi-based Indian expat Dr Niveditha Shetty Hegde, 37, and seven-year-old daughter Ishanvi Hegde, who have just been featured in the book spotlighting 25 mother-daughter duos around the world “who have used their creativity, cleverness, and unique talents to do remarkable things”.
“We are thrilled,” Dr Niveditha told Gulf News soon after receiving a hard copy of the book recently. “The book was released on February 8 and it is great to see our names and story alongside prominent figures like Beyoncé- Blue Ivy, Marie Curie- Irène Joliot-Curie, Julie Andrews- Emma Walton Hamilton and many more,” said the orthodontist by profession and dancer by passion.
The global recognition for the mother-daughter duo is the result of the huge popularity of their YouTube channel ‘Laasya’.
Millions of followers
“We have 1.9 million-plus subscribers on YouTube, 1.1 million-plus followers on Facebook and 145,000-plus followers on Instagram. Two of our videos have over 150 million views and our total viewership on YouTube alone is over 546 million,” Dr Niveditha said.
The channel was launched almost a year after she moved to the UAE in 2016 from the south Indian state of Karnataka. Initially, Dr Niveditha used to share videos of dances performaned along with her friend in Al Ain, Akshatha Bhat. However, they could not pursue it when Dr Niveditha shifted to Abu Dhabi and Akshatha went back home.
“After that I did a few solo dances on the channel, but it really gained huge popularity after I started uploading videos of dancing with Ishanvi,” said Dr Niveditha, who was introduced to the world of dancing in her childhood by her mother, who was also passionate about the performance art form.
Following in mum’s footsteps
Just like her mom, Ishanvi was also fascinated by dance from a very young age.
“She used to make her own steps and dance for every song that we played. I once saw from her daycare CCTV how she was dancing to the nursery rhymes with perfect steps. She was just around two then. I started teaching her simple dances at home and put her for classical dance classes, Kathak and Bharatanatyam, when she turned four.”
Ishanvi did well in her dance classes and loved performing on stage. “Whenever I danced at home, she followed me and attempted to learn the steps. Soon, we were learning and trying some simple choreographies together.”
When Dr Niveditha’s husband Dr Srinidhi Hegde, an endodontist, saw them dancing together, he suggested to upload the videos on social media.
“Ishanvi first appeared with me for just a bit in a patriotic dance video called ‘Jaaga Hindustan’. Our first proper mom-daughter video was for the Punjabi song ‘Kudiye Ni’ in June 2019,” she added.
Their first mother-daughter video has received over 7.7 million views. Ishanvi’s adorable steps and cute expressions were an instant hit. There was no looking back. The ‘NiviandIshanvi’ dance saga has seen the mother-daughter duo post around 45 videos since then. Around 30 of them featured both of them performing together in colourful dance costumes.
“The challenge was taking time out for it, while managing a full-time job. But as they say, you are never too busy to take out time for the things you love. It did not seem like a chore, because it was something we enjoyed. During the pandemic lockdown, schools closed and all stage performances had come to a halt. That is when we started making more videos and thought of YouTube as our stage,” said Dr Niveditha.
They then made the best use of the time at hand, designing costumes, making new dances, recording and posting them. “We started getting a very good response from audience everywhere. Several Indian news channels featured us and celebrities shared our videos. We were featured in ‘Humans of Bombay’ and Ishanvi was listed as one of the top young creators of India by entertainment website MissMalini. Soon we were doing more, and reaching more and more people.”
What makes their content different is the inclusion of a variety of dances, mainly Bollywood, semi-classical and some pure classical dances of Ishanvi.
“Sometimes we are performing for a soothing instrumental or an old classic, and sometimes a new song catches our attention. But one thing I make sure is that the songs and steps we choose are appropriate keeping Ishanvi’s age in mind. We almost never blindly follow trends and try to make meaningful content even if it means a lesser reach,” she said.
They take the effort to arrange dance costumes and accessories that match the style of the songs chosen from the length and breadth of India. Often twinning their outfits, the mother-daughter duo has inspired several others like them to take up dance.
‘Our biggest achievement’
“I get dance covers from several moms who are rediscovering their passion for dance with their kids. It’s amazing to see them bond with the common factor, which is love for dance. I see grown-up girls encouraging their moms to dance with them, daughters-in-law dancing with their mothers-in-law, and also little kids trying their best to pick up our steps.
“The fact that we inspired all these people is our biggest achievement. When I receive messages about how our dance lifts someone’s spirits, I feel good that we started this, and am motivated to do more. Because, I know that if we are spreading positivity, the purpose is served.”
Dr Niveditha said she could not believe it when they got a mail from the Rebel Girls team saying they were being considered for a feature.
“We didn’t apply for anything. I first checked if the mail was genuine,” she said, laughing. “Being an avid reader, Ishanvi had some of the Rebel Girls books which she enjoyed, so I knew about their work. They had already researched about us and wanted some more details on our journey. I filled the form and after a month, we got a mail saying our story was being featured in their book Rebel Girls-Powerful Pairs.”
She added: “Being recognised at a global level like this makes us feel ecstatic and at the same time we realise the impact we can create and, therefore, we are motivated to do more and better things. As for Ishanvi, I want her to keep learning and get better each day. I want her to respect dance and grow as an artiste. I see a lot of little ones following her steps, and I want her to set an example by learning different classical and traditional dances and carrying them forward to the next generation.”
Dr Niveditha said she was grateful to be in a country like the UAE where there is ample opportunity to pursue her dreams, professional and otherwise.
Ishanvi is a grade two student at Bright Riders School in Abu Dhabi and Dr Niveditha works with Al Bustan Medical Centre in Khalifa City A.
“Ishanvi’s long weekend gives her enough time to pursue these extra-curricular activities. We are very proud that our home country India and our home away from home, the UAE, have been represented in the book through our story,” Dr Niveditha added.