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Dance your way to success
Shilpa Shet
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January 22, 2008

Recently, Smriti Chokhani got her first taste of professional dance troupes. Her family had invited a small local troupe for her wedding. The families had a blast, according to Smriti.

We did not know it would be so successful. We had the functions at Mayfair Rooms (Mumbai). This small troupe of about eight people not only were the central attraction, but later they also helped people get into the groove," she recollects.

The dancer troupe was led by Aditya Kumar, who is still studying in college. Aditya studied under Shaimak Davar. "I always loved dancing," he recollects, "I took part in dance functions at school. About five years ago when a few friends decided to go to Shaimak Davar's I joined them."

That's what changed the course of his life. "I am now part of a professional dance troupe," he says, "Basically, a few of us who had gone to the school and a few others got together. We perform at small functions since most of us are still studying."

The stage has literally opened up for dance troupes. Be it sangeet functions or popular reality show dance competitions or even stage performances -- dance has come a long way as a profession. Today, many youngsters take pride in being part of a dance troupe. The journey to being a successful dance performer is not without challenges though.

Who can be part of a dance troupe?
Dancing in a troupe is an exciting and very challenging assignment. "There are many people who are good soloists. But the demand for solo performers is very limited," says Aditya.

Aditya says that anyone with a good sense of rhythm and flexibility can be a good dancer. "You need to understand dance and movements well. You need to intrinsically understand rhythm and music," he explains.

You also need to be a good team player. "Since in a troupe you almost need to look like one entity, it is important to be a good team player," adds Aditya.

Where can you learn to dance?
There are many dance schools that provide dance training and many more that are mushrooming thanks to the growing demand for trained dancers.

The most popular are Shiamak Davar's Salsa Dance Company, Sandeep Soparkar and Ashley Lobo's Danceworx. These are primarily based in Mumbai. However, Salsa now has centres all over the country.

The courses are announced either through a newspaper or you could call to check on the next course dates.

All these institutes have websites that announce the dates of the courses.

What do you learn?
There are many who believe that you can learn any dance form as long as you learn rhythm and flexibility.

"Some of the people in my troupe have also learnt classical dance," explains Aditya. However, he recommends that you need to know a few of the Western forms like salsa, jive, foxtrot, waltz, samba, rumba, tango, and such. "That gives you the entire spectrum. Each dance form teaches you a new aspect, hence the more you learn the better your performance," Aditya explains.

Dance classes focus on warm-up and exercises too.

What are the course fees and what sort of remuneration should one expect?
The course fees range from Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 for Western classical dances. Indian classical dance takes many years to be mastered.

As for remuneration, you can charge anywhere from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 for a two-hour performance. Based on the type of performance the charges vary, says Aditya.

What are the challenges you can face?
The key is to decide whether you want to make a career in dance. If yes, you will need to first get into shape, say experts.

Dancing involves long hours. "On an average we practice for an hour everyday and about four hours on the weekends. You have to stay fit to be able to have the stamina to perform, with a smile on your face."

The other challenge is to get over stage fright. "I know many people who dance very well in closed set ups and during practice. The minute they are on stage, they freeze, they blunder," he explains. "The only way you can overcome that is by making up your mind that you are going to go ahead and do it. Dance has to be part of your body movements. Eventually, it just becomes a part of you."

How can you plot a career?
igorous training and promotion is the key to success, says Aditya. He has plans. "Currently we are a loosely held troupe. Once we are through with our academics (that's a familial request), we intend setting up our own company."

To succeed you have to innovate and entertain. "The key is to do things that impress people -- you have to take care of the "wow" factor. This is showbiz and you have to give it the attention it needs."

Here are a few more tips:

Tomorrow: Choreography as a career

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