Three generations, one love for dance

Hasan preserving family’s dancing legacy

CHS9+student+Arisha+Hasan+teaches+class+at+Milaana+Dance%E2%80%99s+studio+on+Jan.+20.+Hasan+is+the+youngest+instructor+at+the+studio%2C+working+alongside+her+mother.+

Angelina Liu

CHS9 student Arisha Hasan teaches class at Milaana Dance’s studio on Jan. 20. Hasan is the youngest instructor at the studio, working alongside her mother.

By Tracy Tran, Coppell High School

Closing her eyes, her body naturally felt the rhythms of the song. Tiptoeing in small movements, she explored her new happiness in dancing. The 3-year-old Arisha Hasan started dancing as if she was born with that talent.

With her grandmother Maya Nehal being a part of the Bangladeshi Expatriate Society of Texas (BEST), an organization for Bengalis for dancing, singing and acting, Hasan went to the practices, watching how other people were dancing.

“Once I turned 5, my mom [Iffat Nehal] put me into dancing for the dance part of BEST,” Hasan said. “When I got older, I did ballet, jazz and hip hop on and off. And then when I was around 8 or 9, my mom opened a dance studio for Milaana Dance. She decided to do Bollywood dancing and that’s when I originally started my Bollywood dancing.”

Grandmother Maya Nehal, CHS9 student Arisha Hasan and her mother Iffat Nehal all share a generational love for dancing. From age 3, Hasan has explored her talent for dancing and became Milaana Dance’s youngest dance instructor. Photo courtesy Arisha Hasan

Growing up, Hasan went to BEST practices with her mother and grandmother, seeing many dancers performing in front of her eyes. The passion grew but she wasn’t allowed to perform dancing until she turned 5.

“She was very observant,” Maya Nehal said. “She would be watching others how they were dancing. Then shortly after that, she remembered she wasn’t allowed to perform it until she was 5 and she was upset. What I noticed about her was that even though she wasn’t dancing well at that time, she was really watching others [and] how they were doing it. Then by the time she was 5, she was practicing, rehearsing and on particular performance days, she would go all the way. I don’t even remember if she ever missed one of our dance classes. She is gifted, so we always have been encouraging her to dance.”

From a young age, Hasan experienced the pressure of many dancers: performing in front of the audience. Reflecting on her earlier performances, Hasan has seen a lot of improvement in her dancing and expressions on stage.

“When she was a child, even when she was doing other things, she would always move and dance,” Maya Nehal said. “ Over the years, it’s become such a passion for her and she’s really worked on building her skills, her form and her technique. It’s very exciting for her to see that development.”

With eight years of Bollywood dancing, Hasan became a Milaana dance instructor in April 2021. All three generations of her family, including her grandmother, her mom and herself, develop a love for dancing and plan to continue passing down the family traditions. 

“We have a lot of jokes,” Iffat Nehal said. “I’m Generation X, Arisha is Generation Z and my mom is a baby boomer. So there are three generations working in this company and we love it. Enjoying music is the most common thing all three of us have.”

The family company holds the special meanings between all three members of Hasan’s family.

“Dance is one product you don’t see right away until fully completed with lessons,” Maya Nehal said. “When it goes on the stage, it is the biggest satisfaction to see your product displayed on a stage. It’s beautiful to see that, especially when you see your daughter and your granddaughter dancing.”

The biggest support and understanding for Hasan comes from her mother and grandmother, who also inspired her to start dancing.

“My grandmother and my mom both inspired me a lot,” Hasan said. “Working at the same place with my mom is definitely really interesting and very different. My grandma helped me get into dance. If I ever end up having kids, I would hope one of them would continue my dancing.”

Being a dance instructor as a high school freshman requires Hasan to manage her time for each activity.

“For a while, balancing between teaching and school was really difficult,” Hasan said. “Now I make sure that school is more of a priority than my dancing. The days I have teaching, I make sure those hours are specifically for dance. Besides dancing, I like to run, bake, read and watch TV in my free time.”  

Dancing has shaped Hasan’s characteristics and her confidence about being onstage, while letting her experience the ability to dance to different types of music without understanding the actual languages. In the future, she plans to join a Bollywood dance team when going to college.

“If you’re a new dancer or want to try it out, just go for it,” Hasan said. “Dancing is one thing that’s definitely changed my life and it keeps me sane. It makes me really happy. And even people around me, they’ve noticed that I’m always in a really good mood after I dance.”

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This story was originally published on Coppell Student Media on March 24, 2022.