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Dancer, TikTok star, and entrepreneur: Denathi Pussegoda

By Mahika Panditha

I cannot be the only one who sees people dancing on TikTok and then just goes down a rabbit hole of watching their performances…Anyway, one of the talented ladies I came across is Denathi Pussegoda, and I know that you all must have seen her on your FYP!

She is a dancer, choreographer, Dance Inspire LK Founder, and content creator, who is also currently finishing off her degree in early childhood studies. If you have not, do check her out and also check out Dance Inspire on all social media platforms including YouTube. Their videos make me so happy – they are all so wholesome!

We had the chance to speak with Denathi earlier this week and we got to chat about all things Dance Inspire and TikTok. Denathi hopes to keep sharing her knowledge and passion for dancing, and we cannot wait to see where her journey takes her, but for now, check out what she had to say!

Talk to us about Dance Inspire. Tell us about the journey.

It opened in February 2017, just by transforming a garage space into my humble little studio which I have been using to date. My mom is the one who has been behind me in my dance career since day one. She saw the knack I have for it, and got me enrolled for classes in Kandyan and Bharatanatyam, which I studied for over 15 years. Then I started learning ballet and Latin American, and all the other dance forms like modern dancing, hip-hop, and so on, which I have learned through the internet and various workshops.

While I was in school and in my private dance classes, I would do a lot of choreography. Even though I didn’t have a studio space, I went for a lot of choreography gigs, which is why my mom wanted to have a studio. And so we created Dance Inspire.

On my first day, I had two children whom I had previously known and over the years, we have grown into a big academy of over 150 students ranging from three-year-olds to ladies who come for my dance fitness classes. We also started a Dance Inspire YouTube page – it was a great way to motivate children to get out there and be confident, and also expose their talents. It received a lot of admiration and appreciation, we have come a long way – we reached 100,000 subscribers and received the YouTube plaque. The journey has been simply amazing.

What has been your favourite memory with Dance Inspire?

Well, there have been so many because every time we get together to do a dance shoot or even just in class, it is such a good time. We have a lot of fun because we all do it with a lot of love and passion. If I had to choose one, one of my favourite memories would be the Christmas Medley that we did last year. It was a mix of the kids and the seniors coming together with four segments. The routines were fun, happy, and all in high spirits – it felt like a Disney movie!

Any advice for people who want to start dancing?

Take as many classes as you can! There are so many styles out there. Whenever I can, I try to take workshops; when I’m abroad, I take classes. There is so much to learn. Dance and music keeps evolving. Once you learn all these styles, you will begin to see what you are good at, and when you learn what you are good at, you can improvise and that is when you can be creative, find your own flavour when you do that style. Sometimes it can be a mix of different styles too. So yeah, take as many classes as you can, and as old as the saying is, practice is key. Keep practising, explore on your own at your own pace, and don’t give up! Keep dancing!

Okay, let’s talk about TikTok! What made you want to start posting content on TikTok?

I was actually on the app back in 2016 when it was called “Musical.ly”; I made a few videos because I thought it was really cool that it had music and you could make any type of video at that time. Eventually, with my higher studies, I gave up on it. I picked it up again in 2019 and made some videos with my cousins and friends, but I kept it private. In 2020, I started to post the videos during the first lockdown and I haven’t stopped since.

Your account has grown exponentially. How do you feel about the growth of your platform?

I am genuinely grateful for all the feedback and support I receive for my content – it’s amazing. The community is supportive and appreciative, so it is quite overwhelming. It’s given me the opportunity to work with different brands, and collaborate and work with artists in the music industry here in Sri Lanka. I am just thankful!

Could you walk us through your creative process regarding creating TikTok content?

Most importantly, picking a song or trend I like; when I find something interesting, I save it, and when I have free time, I go through the moves and try to add my own twist to it. Or if it’s just the music, I try to create my own little routine. I try to find an outfit that suits the whole TikTok vibe, and when shooting – the important thing is to find good lighting and a good angle.

What is something people would not know about being a content creator?

It takes time, effort, and also patience because it’s like trial and error. You need to try it and see what you are good at, and then make improvements. You need to keep it raw and portray your own personality through what you create so that it remains unique!

Aside from dancing and TikTok, what do you like to spend your time doing?

I love spending time with my family and friends. We are all foodies, so we enjoy good food and a movie. I also love travelling!

Any funny stories for us?

In 2016, while I was performing a traditional Kandyan duet on stage (yeah, just the two of us) in front of an audience of around 200-300 people, a part of my costume was coming out, and while I was doing a certain move, I stepped on the cloth, which made me slip, and I fell on stage in front of everyone in a live concert! Embarrassing and funny when I watch the video now, but I got up the next second and kept dancing my way to the end like a pro but yeah, that was a funny incident!

PHOTOS © CHARITH RAJAPAKSHE, SHENAL PUSSEGODA, Zoncho Photography