Till two months ago, save for tapping her feet and nodding to beats of latest tracks playing on her walkman, 20-year-old Alysa D’Cruz would exhibit little movement that qualified as dancing. Then she watched So You Think You Can Dance, an American dance reality show on AXN. And life changed. D’Cruz was so enchanted by the way the participants effortlessly adopted different dance styles, dancing the graceful ballet and bull fight-like paso doble with equal perfection, that she got hooked, not just to the show, but to the dances.
She now spends two evenings a week at Sandip Soparrkar’s dance classes in Bandra, learning the basics of ballroom dancing instead of lying on her couch. “I am a changed person,” said the final year mass media student. D’Cruz is not the only one. Not classical, not even Bollywood jhatkas, but Mumbai’s latest moves are on Western ballroom dances like waltz and fox-trot and other exotic genres like the French-Spanish paso doble, Argentinian tango, Caribbean mambo and salsa.
Hollywood has helped with films like Stomp the Yard (2007) and TV shows like So You Think... Our own movies seem to be fanning the fascination as well with newer and lesser-known Western dance forms. Kal Ho Naa Ho triggered an interest in salsa, while people starting calling up dance classes after watching Akshay Kumar and Katrina do jazz in Namaste London.
Soparrkar said he had seen a 30 per cent increase in enrolment for Western dances. Sasha Goradia, a dance instructor from Expressions Dance and Fitness Studio in Dadar, said nine out of 10 queries every day were regarding a tango or a fox-trot lesson.
“It’s just a fad,” said a dismissive Saroj Khan, the diva of Bollywood choreography, adding that people take up Western dance to learn some form of dance without working hard.
“They know Indian classical dance takes a lot of strength and determination to learn. They are lazy bums.”
But others do not mind. “There has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of people interested in Western dance, mainly because of reality shows and dance-themed movies, but on the whole the awareness about dance has amplified,” said Soparrkar, who also owns his chain of dance schools.
Joel Cardi, a dance instructor at Rahul Saxena’s Dance Connection in Bandra, said Western dances had become the flavour of the season thanks to dance reality shows. “Dance tastes vary every season and this season it’s diverse forms of ballroom dancing,” said Cardi.
Dance institutes like Performing Arts Academy in Sion, Nut Vrund in Ghatkopar, Pravin Phalke's Dance Institute at Govandi are few among the innumerable dance classes that have sprung up in the last four years in places like Ghatkopar, Sion and Thane, and all teach Western dances.
Take Jameel Shah’s case. The 25-year-old started learning jive, waltz and salsa after the first season of Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa two years ago and has never looked back.
“Watching Mona Singh and Toby Fernandes dance got my pulse racing. The transformation of Mona from a person who could barely dance stirred me.”
Glenn Xavier (18) is yet to make his choice on which form of dance he wants to pursue, though he knows its still one among the innumerable ballroom dance forms. “I watched Mad Hot Ballroom (2005) and I was interested. The day I watched Stomp The Yard, I had to start looking for a form of dance which I want to pursue,” he said.
Naeem Shaikh (19) from Mulund got interested in dance after he watched Take The Lead (2006), a movie about a dance instructor who believed in the dancing capabilities of problem kids and trains them towards a life of confidence and self respect. “I knew I wanted to dance, that very moment,” he said. He learnt ballroom dancing from S.N. Troupe, Mulund.