The world's their stage

Sep 06, 2015, 08:40 IST | Anirban Das

Desi Hoppers is the first Indian dance group to win the World Of Dance contest in the US

Three Mumbai-based dancers — Shantanu Maheshwari, Macedon D’Mello and Nimit Kotian — chased their dreams to participate in the World of Dance championship in Los Angeles. When they needed a couple of more talented dancers to form India’s first-ever group to participate in the US competition, the trio chose four more dancers through auditions — Rohan Vyas, Viraj Pandya, Subhash Naidu and Niraj Lama — to form Desi Hoppers. The troupe not only participated, but also won the title that they proudly describe as, “The World Cup victory of the Indian dancers”.

Self-taught dance group, The Desi Hoppers, are chasing their dreams and touring the world. PICS/NIMESH DAVE
Self-taught dance group, The Desi Hoppers, are chasing their dreams and touring the world. Pics/Nimesh Dave

Hard work pays off
While their victory will encourage many dancers to pursue their passion, the team’s hard work is worth sharing. “We had only 45 days to prepare for the competition. Also, we didn’t know each other then. Some were good at popping and some at krumping. As we practised, we started helping each other,” says Vyas. At the same time, they were also shooting for a TV dance reality show, Naach, which is currently on air on a youth channel. Lama adds, “The show encapsulates our journey of coming together and winning the show. During those arduous 45 days of training, we were not only rehearsing, but also shooting. We had to manage everything, and eventually, our hard work paid off.”

(L-R) Niraj Lama, Viraj Pandya, Subhash Naidu, Rohan Vyas, Macedon D’Mello, Nimit Kotian and Shantanu Maheshwari
(L-R) Niraj Lama, Viraj Pandya, Subhash Naidu, Rohan Vyas, Macedon D’Mello, Nimit Kotian and Shantanu Maheshwari

None of the members of Desi Hoppers has undergone any formal training. They have watched videos and shows to pursue their passion, so they kept seeking inspiration from renowned dancers and rehearsed different and difficult steps to hone their skills. “Michael Jackson and Sachin Tendulkar were supremely talented and they worked hard to achieve their goals. People from different fields should seek inspiration from them to succeed in life,” says Vyas, with admiration for the two legends.

With such focus and determination, Desi Hoppers was on their way to stardom. Pandya states, “Through-out the competition, people were cheering us. We got a standing ovation. Our aim was to entertain and gain respect. Not only did we manage to do it, but we also came back with the trophy, and were as happy as when the Indian cricket team wins the World Cup.”

Reel inspirations?
While one would believe that their story of coming together and winning a competition in the US is similar to that shown in choreographer-turned-filmmaker Remo D’Souza’s film ABCD2, the group does not identify with it. “Firstly, we do not copy steps. Secondly, through our dancing, we show our culture and roots. Third, competitions do not happen in the way shown in ABCD2. It does not take a mere two minutes to put together an act. A lot of thought goes behind a dance,” Maheshwari clarifies.

Though they feel their journey has been different from ABCD2, there’s a lot from their lives that can be weaved into a film’s script. They do not come from affluent families, have had their share of struggles, and have faced scores of rejections. As Lama says, “I danced at marriages, Ganpati pandals and corporate events to make money. People have often defaulted on payments by just saying that my dance was not up to the mark. This victory gives me confidence, and I will keep dancing all my life.”

Real times
Almost every channel today hosts a dance reality show. Although some of them have also auditioned for a few, they do not call it a great platform for aspiring dancers. “Reality shows do not encourage talent. If one has any connections with the crew or judges, then the person has an upper hand over the other good dancers. These shows are businesses based on unfair judgments. One should also have a sad story to tell, to make people sympathise, and hence survive on the show,” says Subhash Naidu, adding he had endured a similar experience.

But, they not only believe reality shows, but dancers too should be blamed. Kotian says, “The problem is everyone wants to be famous and everyone wants to be a part of reality shows. Also, some people try to get associated with established dancers in the industry to get work. But true dancers perfect their skills first and then explore career options like choreography, teaching and performances at big shows.”

The show must go on
The Desi Hoppers are not in a hurry to achieve fame. Rather, they want to learn more before they start receiving offers for work. They also want other aspiring dancers to endorse their idea. In fact, they want schools to include dance as a subject
in the curriculum. “In our physical training subject, dance should be included for physical endurance. Educational institutes should encourage Indian classical dance. It will change the way dance is perceived in India. It is a beautiful expression and one should learn it properly instead of relying on online videos or random coaching centres,” says Maheshwari. The team now wants to stick together and aspires to perform together as well. “As a group we will keep in touch, rehearse and also perform together. We are individually also trying to grow as dancers, so that we can share our inputs and help the group,” says D’Mello.

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