Confessions of a Dance Choreographer

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My job includes instructing students at my dance class, choreographing shows and music videos and mentoring young dance enthusiasts. Marketing yourself is of key importance. I achieved my career goals late in life because unlike others in my profession, I refused to compromise my principles. Many come into this profession with dreams of becoming stars. Parents encourage this, no matter how unbecoming some dances are of children. A four-year-old’s mother asked me to teach her daughter the ‘Chikni Chameli’ moves. She offered a handsome amount, but it’s not always about the money. I refused and she got someone else to do it.

This profession has taught me a number of lessons, but the biggest one is to be detached. One of my students had been training with me for 10 years and I prepared her for an audition at Terence Lewis’ academy for a post-graduate qualification in dance. This was six years ago and she was the only one selected from 300 aspirants. She signed a two-year contract with him and breached it.

Credit for our work is something most of us in the dance industry have had to fight for. I had done an infants’ programme for one of south Mumbai’s best schools. It required me to handle the music, editing, script and choreography. When I asked for my name to be printed on the ticket since I was the director of the show, I was told that I was no Shakespeare. But what keeps an artiste motivated is innovation. I have students as old as 80 who have performed garba on stage without forgetting a step. To make them remember, I made them enact in their minds routine housework, where making chapaatis was one step and hanging clothes another. One of my favourite students passed her Marathi exam with flying colours by memorising it as a dance.

(She has been a choreographer for 40 years)

As told to Sharmeen Hakim