Mumbai wants to dance to more than just Sheila, Munni and Jalebi bai
So say dance instructors in the city, who believe that Mumbaikars are hungry to move their bodies to more than just the beats of the latest Bollywood item song. Surekha S finds out what gets the city all shook up on the eve of International Dance Day
Prosenjit Kundu, who has been teaching and choreographing street dance styles has been active on the urban street dance scene for the past two decades. “When I first came to India, in 2005, there was nobody teaching street dance styles, people had seen it on television, but had no access to one-on-one training,” he says.
Prosenjit started by training a bunch of kids for free and creating awareness about the style through the medium of television and print. “Now, there are many people teaching street styles, there are events, battles, movies and television shows showcasing street dance styles,” he says.
The dancer-choreographer believes that international teachers and performances have also helped spread awareness about the dance style. “There is a big market for it now in India,” says Prosenjit. Ask him which street style is the most popular these days and he says it’s B-boying/B-girling, as well as House, Popping, Locking and Old School Hip-Hop.
Last year, saw the emergence of an all-girl street dance group called Urbanista. “I have been doing street styles from a very young age, but was possibly the only Indian girl at the time pursuing street dance,” says Priya Gonsalves, adding, “I started Urbanista to encourage the female presence in the underground street dance community.”
The Underdog Kombat Crew, a B-Boying group formed three years ago, has witnessed a steady increase in the number of students. “When we started out, we only got enquiries from college students, now we get enquiries from their parents as well. We are seeing at least a 25% increase every year,” says the 24-year-old Paritosh Parmar, founder-member.
Modern Contemporary dance
Modern Contemporary Dance has also seen an increase in the number of students keen to learn the basics.
Aanchal Gupta, who runs the dance academy Arts in Motion, says, “Contemporary dance is extremely graceful and beautiful. It is musical, soothing. The dance style has seen a huge jump in the last few years,” she says. Sasha Garodia of Sumeet Nagdev Dance Company endorses the view. “Awareness about modern contemporary dance has increased. In the last two years we have seen a vast difference,” she says.
Rahul D’Lina who runs the TR Dance Company in Bandra, says that these days there is a lot of demand for contemporary. “Modern contemporary has techniques involved and a study of the techniques is needed for it,” he says.
“Modern contemporary has Jazz and Ballet elements,” explains Harsh Langalia, who runs Dance Explosion in Malad. “Though the music is slow, it is beautiful in its movements. Several youngsters want to learn it today, especially after seeing so much of it on reality shows. Only twenty percent of our students opt for Bollywood, the rest opt for Hip-Hop or contemporary styles,” he adds.
Interest in the martial art form that originated in Kerala almost 3,000 years ago has risen in the last two years, and not just among those interested in martial arts, but also with the dance community.
The Sumeet Nagdev Dance Company is one of the institutions that have introduced Kalaripayattu besides their Western dance classes that include ballet, belly-dancing and classical jazz. They aren’t the only ones to cash in on the trend.
Even academies dedicated to Indian classical dance forms have started offering Kalaripayattu classes. Kalaripayattu instructor Belraj Soni, who has been teaching the art for the past 18 years says, “When I started teaching in Mumbai I had just two students; now more than 30 students attend every batch,” says Belraj, adding that he often has to deny admission in order to keep the size of the class manageable.
At a recently concluded dance workshop, he says he had over 60 students enroll, most of whom had backgrounds in dance. “Kalaripayattu is still practised as a martial art form, it’s just that dancers find it more useful since it helps increase flexibility,” he says. He adds that training in Kalari also helps energise and rejuvenate internal and external parts of the body.
Vipin Kazhipurat, who has also been teaching Kalaripayattu for over two years in the city, says, “We have had over 25 students in each batch.” He adds, “The reason more dancers are taking to it is because Kalari has graceful movements, and can be fused with other dance forms in choreography. It also improves body language and brings more control.”