I Am Proud Of All Things Indian, Says UK-Born Odissi Dancer Rani Natalie Rout

Born to London-based Odia parents, gifted young Odissi dancer and doctor, Rani Natalie Rout is a citizen of the United Kingdom. Her father Jayakrushna Rout was a doctor while her mother Usha Rani Rout, the first female president of Odia Society of the UK, has been a professor of Behavioural Sciences.


A brilliant student, she excelled equally in French, Latin, music, mathematics, literature and physics during her school days and bagged the UK Mathematical Challenge Gold Award. 

Natalie studied medicine at the prestigious Cambridge University. She is also one of the founders of the Cambridge University Indian Classical Arts Society and was vice president of the National Indian Students Union of UK.   

She started learning dance as a toddler and was adept in six dance styles – western ballet, tap, modern in addition to the Indian classical dances of Odissi, Kathak and Bharatanatyam. She won the Golden Girl Dance Competition 2007 and Just Dance Competition 2010 held in London apart from being one of the Top-Ten-Talents Award winners of Odissi International staged in 2012 in Bhubaneswar.

Multi-talented Natalie has also been a singer, pianist and flautist since her college days and has performed in band, choir and orchestra.

You started dancing before walking, literally. How did this happen?  

All credit goes to my mum. She always had an interest in dance and music but did not have any formal training. When she found out that there was a toddler dance class at one of our local ballet schools, she couldn’t resist the thought of me being able to learn a beautiful art form that she hadn’t had the opportunity to do as a child. Thus I started learning dance when I was just two years old. 

What attracted towards Indian classical dances? And what made you focus on Odissi, finally? 

Once again, all credit goes to my mum. She came across Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Manchester where there were Bharatanatyam classes and took me along to try it out. I enjoyed my first lesson so much that I continued with Bharatnatyam for a while. Kathak classes started at the Bhavan a little later and being a fan of Hindustani music, I was attracted to the north Indian dance form and so I continued with both. 

I was introduced to Odissi by chance by Manchester-based Mitali Dev, my first Odissi teacher. When she saw that I was a keen dancer and quick learner, she recommended that I attend an annual Indian dance camp at which the great gurus from India come to the UK to teach classical art forms. It was there that I was introduced to Madhavi Mudgal from New Delhi.

I hadn’t had the opportunity to see Odissi performed at its best until I met her. Watching her dance and teach drew me towards Odissi. After that experience, my mum took me to Bhubaneswar to learn Odissi. It was at one of these annual camps in the UK that I met my guru Sujata Mohapatra and she inspired me to truly work on my Odissi journey. She continues to be a fireball of inspiration.

Did your training in western dance styles help you in grasping Indian classical dance styles?

Definitely! By the time I started Indian classical dance, I already had a good concept of rhythm, melody, posture and spatial awareness – the key elements of any dance form. Ballet undoubtedly gave me fantastic training in posture and core stability while tap gave me the sense of rhythm and foot coordination that I could then use in all the Indian classical dance styles. Moreover, I had already performed a fair amount before I started learning the Indian classical dance styles that had enhanced my stage confidence and memorising sequences.   

Dance, music, medicine – all these fields demand much concentration, time and study to excel. How did you manage? 

I am consistently working on my time-management skills and there are periods where I don’t have a free moment because a dance show is approaching or alternatively, I am working on a medical conference and I don’t have time to rehearse. I obviously have to compromise a lot and have had to turn down various dance projects as I simply can’t spare time off work to the extent that would be required to participate in such projects. That said, because I started doing so much at such a young age, it has become part of my routine to balance a number of activities and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You are trained in dramatic arts and did a lot of Shakespeare plays. You also studied cinema at the London Academy of Media and Films and acted in a film. Any plans to explore acting further?

I had got an offer from Bollywood when I was a student of medicine at Cambridge. But I could not avail it for my study pressure. As I concentrated in Odissi, in addition to my profession as a doctor, it has not been possible to pursue music and acting further. However, I am open to exploring new avenues as an artiste in future.

Please tell us something about your Odisha connections. It feels great to listen to your chaste Odia conversations despite being born and brought up as British.  

I am born and brought up in the UK. My parents moved to UK after marriage as my father was a doctor in this country. We would come back to Odisha at regular intervals. The frequency increased as Odissi became a bigger part of my life. If I am in love with Odissi and able to speak Odia, all credit goes to my mother who ensured that I remain connected to our roots in Odisha. 

How has been your impression of India and the UK?

Having been born and brought up in the UK in an Indian family, I have been fortunate to experience the best of both worlds; western and eastern. From Indian dance, cuisine and cinema to the rich history and heritage of India, I have sustained a great love for all things Indian. And I am proud of it. But, the UK is my home. I am proud to be British and could not have asked for a better upbringing in a better environment.

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