Remember a sexy Karisma Kapoor dancing circles around Madhuri Dixit in their dance-off in Dil Toh Pagal Hai (1997)? It's a dance-off that leaves Madhuri dumbstruck.
Lauren Gottlieb and Salman Yusuff Khan have been doing something like that on the TV dance show, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (JDJ). As challengers for the contestants, their performances set the bar high - very high. Could they be India's best dancers?
American dancer Gottlieb, who placed second in last year's JDJ, moved to India after she missed out on her dream role in the dance movie, Step Up Revolution. She has been a choreographer-contestant in the American So You Think You Can Dance 3. But she got lucky in India and was offered the lead in choreographer-turned-director Remo's Any Body Can Dance.
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Khan, a mechanical engineer, won TV dance contest Dance India Dance 1 and became the choreographer for Yana Gupta, Isha Sharvani and Drashti Dhami for various editions of JDJ. The Bangalore boy had flown to Mumbai for a day in the middle of his final exams to audition for DID, because he wanted to be sure he didn't have regrets about letting go of his passion. Excerpts from an interview:
How did you get into dancing?
Khan: I have been dancing ever since I can remember. Prabhu (Deva) sir was a big inspiration. When Muqabla came out, I danced to it at every family event, baaraat and shaadi. It was when I shifted from Saudi Arabia to India to study that I got an opportunity to learn dance. A lot of foreign instructors would conduct workshops in Bangalore. I'd participate and study on the side. Dancing would bring me peace. But it was also a way to get into the girls' college!
Gottlieb: My mom put me in a dance class when I was seven and, ironically, I hated it. I thought I was the worst dancer and begged my mom to never send me back. She insisted I finish a year before quitting. But after my first performance everything changed. The lights, the audience, the applause... I have never stopped.
What goes into putting many dance styles into one performance?
Khan: It's a process. We start with striking out things we've already done. Then, we strike out things that have also been done on the show, minus the props. Eventually, we're left with just a few options. With those in hand, we start exploring genres and dance styles. After that, we select a song, develop a theme and go ahead.
Gottlieb: The Karmagraphy (a recently invented fusion dance style) act was one of my favourites. We had finalised everything from the concept to the song. Then we went to the studio and started moving around each other without the music. It's been one of the best times I have had, because there were no set steps. We recorded all of it because when you are in the zone, you don't remember the movements.
What is more fun: dancing for the camera or for a live audience?
Khan: Every time I am on stage, I am alive. It ignites a fire in me and I love it! Dancing for the camera is very different. A lot of performers do very well on stage, but if they're not given the right camera angles, it won't show on television. That's why I watch the monitor and tell the director the shots I want.
Gottlieb: Anything I do, I want it to be as perfect as possible. So once the camera angles are set, I film the flow of shots that will appear on the final day. On the night before the performance, I study them. Dancing for a live audience brings a different kind of rush.
What toll does the constant training and dancing take on your bodies?
Khan: My body takes two months to recuperate from the four months of training an performing on JDJ. Our body gives way no matter how much technique we use. I don't go looking for trouble; it just finds me! But I come out stronger from every injury. Touch wood.
Gottlieb: Knock on wood; I have not had any injury in my career or life. I am smart in what I attempt and what I don't. If there's something dangerous, I am the first one to say I will not do it. Frankly, for the last four years, I wasn't happy with my weight, especially in front of the camera. But over the last year and a half I've trained and am now happy with my shape.
What makes your performances so watchable?
Gottlieb: My secret is that for those few minutes that I'm performing, I try my best to make sure that you can't do anything but watch us and get sucked into whatever story, concept or character we are trying to depict. I want to make sure that you are transformed by our performance.
Khan: I am a storyteller. I hope that the moment you switch on the channel, even if you have fought with someone or have had a bad day, you are taken out of that space and put into ours. I want to leave a part of me with you.
From HT Brunch, August 24
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