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Daily Inspiration: Meet Mansi Muchhala

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mansi Muchhala.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I have been dancing for over 35 years! My journey as a dancer started when I was five years old, and my mom enrolled me in classical dance lessons in my hometown in India. I learned classical Indian dance for 15 years and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Indian Dance along with Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering.

When I moved to the United States for my Graduate studies, dance helped me connect with like-minded friends in a new university in a new country. I choreographed dances for events in my school and college. I continued my passion after I started working, choreographing, and dancing with a group of friends for various events.

My story as an entrepreneur begins with a tiny moment of revelation that happened 12 years back. I was playing with a friend’s then 4-year-old daughter. I started telling her a mythological story and to make it more interactive and fun, I incorporated a few hand gestures (hastas) and simple movements that I learned as a classical dancer. A week later, her mom came to me and shared that her four-year-old has been narrating and communicating the story to everyone using the movements I taught her! This showed me the impact dance had on young minds. I remembered how dance played an integral part in shaping my personality. It was my constant companion and a medium of expression. That’s when I knew I could make a difference, help kids communicate through the medium of dance, and stay connected to their culture. I started teaching Indian Classical Dance to a few children from the neighborhood in my house and therein began Sargam Dance School.

As the school grew, I moved to a studio and continued expanding. 12 years forward, Sargam Dance school is now a premier dance institution in Austin teaching Indian Classical, Bollywood, and Folk dances. Sargam Dance School’s students have been featured on prestigious South Asian TV channels, South Asian Newspapers, various School District events, and at Austin’s very own Zilker Hillside Theater in addition to our grand annual showcase. We have also been involved in hosting fundraisers through the medium of dance for several non-profit organizations in Austin.

Outside of dance, my work and leadership roles at Dell Technologies have helped me guide my students to be leaders and focus on their holistic development. At Sargam Dance School, we have a unique Leadership Program, where our senior students train to be leaders and mentor younger kids. In addition to learning dance, students learn leadership, mentoring, organizational, and time management skills. They also learn stage management, public speaking, and music, and lighting direction.

As a mom, I see the positive impact arts have on my own kids and am even more determined to foster a love for the fine arts and engage my students through the happy medium of dance.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
There are always struggles with small businesses, but I believe that with each struggle comes a lesson in perseverance and resilience. Personally, balancing work, a dance school, and two kids is challenging. I love and believe in what I do, and I always find the drive to keep moving forward. I have been blessed with an incredible family who has always stood by me, been my guiding light and my biggest cheerleader.

One of our biggest challenges in the last two years was adapting to the pandemic. When COVID hit last March and the city shut down, we were in the middle of our semester at the dance school. I saw the impact that shut down had on my own girls and I was determined not to take away one more thing from the kids which brings them joy. We pivoted to virtual lessons in under two weeks. Teaching virtually meant adapting my teaching style, ensuring that it was interactive despite not being in person, and keeping my students engaged. I had to create new instructional material as well as multiple instructional videos to make the transition smooth for all my students. I worked with all my teaching assistants to familiarize them with virtual teaching. Despite all the challenges, we did beautifully. I was amazed at how well all the kids adapted to virtual learning. We didn’t miss a single semester of dance and concluded our teaching semesters with virtual recitals.

During COVID, just like all small businesses, we did lose some business but at the same time, the support that we received from the Austin community was incredible. This Fall was our first time back in person since the pandemic started and we continued to offer a hybrid model to accommodate all our students.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Sargam Dance School specializes in teaching Indian classical, Bollywood, and Folk dances for all skill levels. We also do special event choreographies and often create unique choreographies which are influenced by classical, folk, and contemporary dance forms from all over the world.

I am so thankful to be living in Austin – one of the finest cities. It is a cultural melting pot and we are surrounded by fabulous creative and artistic talent. I am proud that we have not only built a successful school but have built a loving community. What sets us apart is that our students don’t just learn dance for a few years but carry it with them for their life. We use dance as a medium to instill leadership, self-confidence, and empathy. We invest in our community so we all grow together and help raise others.

How do you define success?
Success is a journey, not a destination. Success is cherishing and celebrating every moment of your journey, learning from your challenges, and growing with every step.

Success is when I get a call from my student who is now in college, telling me that they auditioned for a competitive college dance team and made it! Success is when I get a text from my student telling me they made it to the debate team and all the years of public speaking at recitals helped them. It is my students telling me dance makes them happy. It is grandparents telling me how much they loved watching their grandkids perform Indian classical dance.

Success is seeing my own girls’ building self-confidence through dance and falling in love with the art form that I love!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Photo Credits: Mehul Dave Photography and Nicholas Brooks Photography

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