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Part 1: What it takes to be a professional dancer
How many times have you watched those reality shows and said, "Oh, to be a choreographer!"
However, as easy as it may seem to be shooting instructions at people, choreography is not just about dance, it's about understanding dance well enough to teach and direct someone else.
This is another career option that has opened up new possibilities for youngsters.
We spoke to Parimal Phadke, who started off on his own but now has assistants who manage shows. According to Parimal, he is inundated with requests for shows and functions.
Here he answers a few questions on how one can make a comfortable living while doing what one loves.
According to Parimal, choreography can be divided into two categories -- working with an ensemble and solo performances. "If we are talking in terms of ensemble then basically a choreographer needs to be able to execute dance through an group presentation.
"If we are taking a solo dancer then it would mean constructing the dance piece using a particular form for a particular content," he elaborates, "If we take Bollywood into consideration then we can define choreography as interpreting the various songs which weave the plot of a film through solo, duet, trio or an ensemble."
What are the requisites to be a good dance choreographer? Who can be a good choreographer?
Here's what a good choreographer needs to be and have:
A good dancer: The choreographer has to have a good dance technique. S/he may not be a good performer (if one is then it is an added advantage). The choreographer needs to be a good model for his dancers and if he isn't a good dancer he might not be able to recreate on the stage what he has in mind. This leads to the next requisite...
A good teacher and instructor: The choreographer needs to be a good teacher since that will help extract the best from the dancers.
An intelligent visualiser: Being a choreographer myself, my first step towards creating any dance piece is visualising and notating what I visualise before I teach the choreography.
A good sense of music and rhythm: A choreographer without a good sense of music is a lion without teeth. S/he needs to be well acquainted with several musical and rhythm styles to make the choreography unique.
A good command over languages: A Bollywood choreographer should definitely have a good command over languages. Saroj Khan or Vaibhavi Merchant are good choreographers because they understand the emotional content of the lyrics and interpret the songs correctly. To cite an example, Crazy Kiya Re from Dhoom 2 [Images] is unique because the movements of the lyrics show how the heroine is love-struck and the choreography explains this state.
A good director: The choreographer works with a whole team, thus s/he needs to know the skills needed to work with a group. Keeping the group intact and satisfied is one big challenge since at some point every dancer will ultimately plan to move out to have his or her own group.
Knowledge of all the genres: The choreography should be multifaceted, having fair amount of knowledge of classical, semi-classical and popular genres of dance and music. Besides that the choreographer also needs to have a fair knowledge of costume, lights, set design as that will help his choreography have an edge over others.
Is it a lucrative profession today?
It is indeed a lucrative profession. The avenues range from choreographing for schools/ international schools/ colleges, companies, event management agencies etc.
Some years ago dance was considered taboo in the middle class. It's doesn't seem to be like that anymore. Have people opened up to dance choreography as a profession?
With the onslaught of several reality dance shows, the field of dance choreography has suddenly become glamorous. So parents have opened up to the idea of their kids learning any form of dance.
I still feel, however, that they have not yet opened to the idea of dance choreography as a profession since it is not a systematic profession -- one can't really plot one's career graph like other professions one is aware of the progress, such as a journalist moves on to the post of a sub-editor and finally editor.
How was your journey as a choreographer? Did you have trouble establishing yourself in the industry?
I have been working as a choreographer for a decade now. I started with choreographing for theatre and eventually shifted for choreographing several events and corporate functions. I didn't face trouble because probably I was prepared to choreograph a classical number on one hand and have been at ease in choreographing a Bollywood or a contemporary dance number on the other.
I was already a known classical dancer in Pune so shifting to choreography was not really difficult since I had the right contacts and the right time.
What remuneration can a dance choreographer expect starting out?
It depends upon your status and the budget of the client. You start normally with Rs 10,000-15,000. Once you gain experience, depending upon the project, fees can range from Rs 25,000 to even Rs 1 lakh.
Mumbai is the showbiz hot seat. How do smaller towns fare when it comes to dance choreography?
As far as Pune goes, I get two events every month to choreograph and the budget ranges from Rs 25,000-50,000.
Do you choreograph for private parties, sangeets, etc?
I have done such work but that was say five years back. Now I have my assistants who take care of that and I focus on the corporate events, which are more innovative, have a different class of people to watch and are far better in terms of budget.
Your base is classical. How does it affect modern dance choreography?
To put it simply, a classical dancer can choreograph a western and Bollywood number, but vice versa is not possible. Classical dance equips you with everything; you can fit yourself in all genres of dance and music.
As a choreographer, my base in classical gives me a big palette of dance movements that I can utilise for choreography.
What is the future for a dance choreographer? How many years can a dance choreographer continue with the profession?
The sky is the limit. Answering it practically, everything finally depends on the economy -- we have more brands, we have more events, we have more corporate funding and also good funding for films will keep the flame of the choreographer alive. About the retirement age, are you kidding? You retire as a dancer; you never retire as a choreographer.
When should you ideally branch out into choreography? What is the typical path?
One should begin when one feels one has gained enough knowledge in terms of forms/ styles of dance. There is nothing typical in performing arts. If you want something typical you are not made for this profession!
Any words of advice?
Judge your choreography not just by your own judgments!
Part 1: What it takes to be a professional dancer
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