Dancer couple Tino Sanchez and Peeya Rai Choudhuri are swaying to the chemistry

Feb 11, 2018, 10:30 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

Ahead of Valentine's Day, dancer couple and parents to a two-year-old, Tino Sanchez and Peeya Rai Choudhuri talk of what it takes to match notes, on stage and at home

Peeya, Tino and other members of Omaggio. Pics/Satej Shinde
Peeya, Tino and other members of Omaggio. Pics/Satej Shinde

"The aim is to create artistes who are not just good dancers, but also good human beings," says Peeya Rai Choudhuri about Omaggio, the dance company that she runs with husband Tino Sanchez. We are sitting with the couple at Bandra Fort amphitheatre talking as they rehearse for their performance scheduled for a fashion show later that evening.

Peeya and Tino

Watching them, it's clear that the vibe they share is easy, the sort best friends would share, the warmth shining through. Choudhuri is the ninth dancer - Sanchez directs the group - in the five-year-old outfit. This Friday and Saturday, the group will perform its production, Jalika, in Mumbai at the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture.

"Our company is like a laboratory. It's a fusion of contemporary dance, aerial arts, and story telling. We can tell stories without words. Our artistes are not acting, they are actually feeling it. It's not put on," explains Sanchez.

We remember Choudhuri, 37, from her veejay days and then for her roles in Bride and Prejudice and Hip Hip Hurray. She pursued a dance scholarship in Madrid between 2010 and 2012, during which she met Tino, but never danced professionally. In 2013, she started Omaggio with Sanchez, 45, who hails from Spain, and who has been dancing since he was 20. He graduated from The Urdang Academy of Ballet and Performing arts in 1992 and then performed in musicals at the London West End, including Miss Saigon, Fame, Hey Mr Producer, Chicago and West Side Story. He then returned to Spain and continued his career as a choreographer and artistic director and has multiple awards and productions under his belt. They met when Peeya was in Madrid undertaking a dance scholarship. They got married in 2014, and now have a two-year-old son, Dael.

Now based in Anjuna, Goa, the two say that most of their time is spent on their company. "I was like, just give me a bunch of dancers, and we can train them and start dancing," says Sanchez, and we see Choudhuri nodding her head. "To create a special company, we have to create special human beings." That means that the eight-member strong troupe has daily yoga and theatre classes - to aid in learning a way of life. "We are going against every norm of a dance company. In India, it's all about the numbers - how many dancers do you have? 150! We are just right, and that's niche, but it will catch on. It's a group of storytellers, not a tamasha," she adds.

Jalika, which runs for 50 minutes, is written by Choudhuri, and means veil in Sanskrit. "It's about how we constantly put a veil on, and that doesn't make us bad, it's what we need to do. But, one day, we cross the line between what is our image and what is our identity," explains Choudhuri, to which Sanchez adds, "We are losing touch with reality. It's not like we are lying about who we are, we just don't know anymore."

At home though, the two are like any other doting couple to their son, who takes up most of their free time. "We don't talk about work. We kind of close that boundary at the studio, or it won't stop," she says, but Sanchez insists that Omaggio, too, is like family, "When we have to talk, we do, as problems need to be figured out." The two dancers are also immune to any kind of creative clashes and as they talk, their camaraderie is clear.

"He has more experience anyway. Tino is incredibly talented, and has got a large vision. He has the ability to create lots of levels of possibilities with one vision. He has seen everything before anything has even been done," says Choudhuri and smiles at Sanchez, who in turn praises her for her grounded nature. "She is the one who knows what to do with my plans, and everyone loves her... not like they despise me..." says Sanchez and we laugh, "but they don't love you as much as [they love] me," grins Choudhuri. "Yes, that's true. I am very proud of my wife," he says.

Even though love seems to be constantly in the air, they say marriage and romance takes luck and work. "There are times a salsa song will come on, and Tino will pull me to him. We break into dance and our son is just watching, sometimes holding on to my feet. There are also days he lets me sleep in, and I wake up, and my son has eaten and gone to the bathroom and I am thinking, 'wow, it's all done'. That is romance. It is really about the little things."

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