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City dancers at Asian Games

Professional dancers, Priti Gupta and Shannon Benjamin, have been pioneers in representing India for four years around the world. They may represent India at the Olympics in 2012 in DanceSport.

art and culture Updated: Apr 27, 2010 14:47 IST
Serena Menon

Most people will remember having seen this dance competition in movies like Shall We Dance?, starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. Well, this year this dance form called DanceSport, a rage internationally, has for the first time been included in the Asian Games as an official medal activity. And India’s in the forefront in this race.

Professional dancers, Priti Gupta and Shannon Benjamin, have been pioneers in representing India for four years around the world. Apart from performing at several competitions in Macau, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Hungary, they have been the first to represent India at the Indoor Asian Games in the past too.

All DanceSport championships have two categories that dancers can participate in — Latin or Ballroom dances. These two categories have five forms of dances in each; Latin dancing has Salsa, Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Jive and Paso Doble; Ballroom dancing has Slow Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Quick Step and Tango.

Not considered an official sporting activity earlier, DanceSport was dubbed a sport by the governing authority of the International Olympic Committee only in 1997. Though they are yet to make it a medal sport. The duo is ready to go that extra mile to promote the competitive form of Latin and Ballroom dancing. “We want to endorse DanceSport as a proper activity in India,” says Gupta, who is a physiotherapist by profession, and a dancer by calling. “Like any other sport, we get a chance to uphold it internationally.”

The final frontier
“We hope to perform at the Olympics in 2012 as well, it has taken years for them to accept it as a sport… you never know how long it may be before it becomes medal-worthy,” says Gupta.The dancers have recently opened a school — DanceSport India to bring awareness about this unusual ‘sport’. “We have so much talent in India.

People just don’t have a platform to tweak it at. We are here to help those guys and at the same time, spread the word for those who do not know,” says Shannon Benjamin. “We organised the Maharashtra Open Dance Sport Championship in Colaba last year and over 25 couples participated.

It will take place in August again and we hope to get more responses.” Excited to showcase their talent and represent their country at the same time, the dancers are looking to use this new platform and have their hopes pinned on the day they get to perform at the Olympics.

Dancesport
The championship includes multiple couples that participate in two categories — Latin and Ballroom dances. These two categories have five forms of dance in each; Latin dancing involves Salsa, Cha Cha Cha, Rumba, Jive and Paso Doble and Ball Room dancing has Slow Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Quick Step and Tango.

Of the total number, 20 couple participants perform collectively. Within a specific dance round, they are expected to perform to random songs. For each competition, the winners earn themselves and their country a rank. As the rank progresses, they get to compete at higher platforms.