Boys don't ballet. Not Indian boys, at least. But Prashant Saini — Rahul to his students — simply had to ballet. In fact, that’s all he ever wanted to do. Today, at the age of 19, he is well on his way to make his dream come true — as a ballet dancer, a dance teacher and the owner of a dance academy.
As you find your way through a narrow lane in Delhi’s Khirki Extension, the ears struggling to block out the din of a crowded existence, strains of music suddenly cut through the cacophony. A signboard reads Dance With Me Academy. Inside, a six-foot-one-inch tall, lanky, young man is teaching a class to dance. He looks too young to be a teacher. The class is a mix of four to 60-year-olds. And to all of them, he is Rahul Sir. “The first time I walked into the class, I was taken aback by his age. Could this boy really teach me how to dance, I wondered,” says 32-year-old Surbhi Panda Patro, a teacher at New Green Field School, Saket. “But he’s very professional,” she says.
As a boy taking to ballet, Saini says he’s had to face skepticism. “People think it’s a womanly thing to do and that you’ve got to be a weakling. But ballet dancers are very strong. How else would they lift a woman weighing 50 kg?” he says. There are other concerns too, says Saini, whose father is a property dealer. “Learning ballet is expensive. Besides, there are only one or two lead male characters, so competition is tough,” says the boy who was trained under Argentinean ballet teacher Fernando Aguilera at the National Ballet Academy.
Saini is now preparing students of Delhi Police Public School, where he is the youngest teacher, for the Swan Lake Ballet. “The lead characters are all boys,” he says. The school’s principal Ruchi Seth says, “Because he is accomplished in western and classical dance forms, Prashant has been able to inspire both boys and girls. Boys are usually shy coming on stage to dance, unless it’s on Bollywood numbers,” she says.
Saini says his body transformed after he started learning ballet. He can also perform bharatanatyam, garbha, bhangra, gidda, the Maharashtrian lavani, salsa, tango, jazz, cha-cha-cha to name a few. But he does not dance on his toes when performing ballet. “Only girls wear pointed shoes and dance on toes. Boy ballet dancers are there only in supportive roles,” he says.