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Meet the star dancer-choreographers in India today

They made dance their forte, disregarded convention and made a name for themselves. A look at those who are grooving, krumping and popping their way to success.

brunch Updated: Mar 29, 2014 21:31 IST
Veenu Singh

Dance shows have come a long way since Boogie Woogie first offered a platform to dancers in 1997. It was a one-of-a-kind show when it debuted. It's back on TV now, but over the years, there has been no dearth of dance shows on TV. Last year, India's first dance-based movie, ABCD, released successfully, proving that there's finally money in dancing.

From hip-hop and Salsa to B-boying and krumping, dance is a serious and viable business for many. "Unlike a few years ago, when parents rarely encouraged their kids to take up dancing as a profession, today the mind set has changed considerably," says choreographer and director Remo D'Souza.

"Not only have opportunities increased, the earnings have improved too." D'Souza adds that young dancers today are well-versed with different Western dance forms, and the quality of dancing has improved tremendously. Much of the credit goes to TV reality shows, Hollywood and the Internet. D'Souza recalls how, in Varanasi, he was stunned to see young girls krumping perfectly, after looking at clips online.

Another reason dance is growing in India is that talented dancers are not relegated to backup dancers in films today. They take pride of place at our numerous awards shows and promotional events. "The demand has increased," says choreographer-director, Prabhu Deva. "Now, even TV channels have award shows, at which the most preferred form of entertainment is dance."

From left to right: Shampa Gopi Krishna, Salman Yusuff Khan and Dharmesh Yelande. (HT Photo)

Here are some success stories that dance reality shows have produced. Meet the nimble-footed people who have managed to convert their passion into a career.

Salman Yusuff Khan
The winner of Dance India Dance, Season 1 and Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, Season 6, Khan is now on Khatron Ke Khiladi, Season 5. Riding high on his success, he recalls a time when he didn't have the courage to tell his parents about his passion. "I come from a conservative Muslim family and even though I loved dancing, I was forced to study mechanical engineering," Khan says. "So, when I decided to participate in DID (2009), they didn't know about it. My father was shocked to see me dance so well on the show."

After winning DID, Khan turned choreographer for season 4 of Jhalak, where his work was greatly appreciated. He got his full-fledged Bollywood break in the dance movie, ABCD. "After I won DID, Remo told me that one day he will sign me for a film. I didn't believe him," he says. "But it actually happened."

Khan will soon be seen in Vivek Agnihotri's Freedom. Not only is he the lead in the film, he has choreographed the songs too.

It is only because these reality shows are doing so well that people like me are here: Mudassar Khan

After that, he was lauded for his choreography in DID Lil' Masters, in which his student won the show. Dharmesh also assisted choreographer Geeta Kapoor on DID Doubles, apart from choreographing Hrithik Roshan's final performance on Just Dance. He choreographed the title track of Tees Maar Khan. And yes, you saw him in D'Souza's ABCD too.

Dharmesh Yelande
For dancer-turned-choreographer Dharmesh (who goes by his first name and is 'Dharmesh Sir' to fans and followers), dance shows have been a blessing in disguise. Hailing from Vadodara, Dharmesh's tryst with dance started nearly 18 years ago, when he picked up bharatnatyam. Then he started participating in dance reality shows. He won Boogie Woogie Mahayudh (2008) and was the first runner-up on DID, Season 2.

Dharmesh had always dreamed of making his passion his profession, but wasn't sure if he could do that till a few years ago. "Today I pay my bills by doing what I love the most," he says, proudly. The classical dancer has now trained in hip-hop as well.

Recently, Dharmesh was seen judging Marathi dance show Mhanje Asal Dancer. He also runs his dance academy, D'virus Dance Academy in Vadodara.

Mudassar Khan
As a child, Mudassar Khan's friends made a video of him dancing awkwardly at a family wedding and showed it to everyone. That video made him the laughing stock of the family. A hurt Khan decided to take revenge. He decided to practise dance, day in and out.

Today, he is the face of change. Khan, who is Salman Khan's blue-eyed boy, choreographed the actor's signature moves in Dabangg (2010) and Ready (2011).

With no formal training, Khan learnt the basics of dancing after watching videos of Prabhu Deva and Michael Jackson.

"After seeing me dance, a few professional dancers offered to train me. Soon, I started a dance group, Sharp Shooters," he says. They participated in Boogie Woogie and everyone loved their choreography.

It was at one such event where Salman saw Khan's work and asked him to choreograph his dance routine at an award show. He loved it so much that he roped in Khan to design his moves in chartbusters like Humka Peeni Hai and Dhinka Chika. The rest, as they say, is history.

There was no looking back after that. Khan choreographed Chalao Na Naino Se from Bol Bachchan (2012), Party All Night in Boss (2013) and Jai Ho (2014) and was also one of the judges on the recently concluded Dance India Dance. He is all set to choreograph a song starring Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan in Holiday.

The 27-year-old says that reality shows are definitely doing a great job in making dance a viable career. "If these shows were not doing a good job, then people like me wouldn't be sitting here," he says. "Remo D'Souza was also a part of this dance show and his life changed after this - he went on to make a dance film called Any Body Can Dance which is a great achievement." Khan admires choreographer Dave Scott (who choreographed the Step Up series of films), apart from Bollywood favourites like Prabhu Deva, Ganesh Acharya and Farah Khan.

Shampa Gopi Krishna
She set the dance floor on fire with her partner, Sushant Singh Rajput, in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 4, prompting judges Remo D'Souza and Madhuri Dixit to call her the "perfect"choreographer. And in the very next season, she won the trophy with her partner Gurmeet Choudhary. Gopi Krishna went on to co-choreograph the sensuous Ang Laga De from Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela with Terence Lewis. She is also one of the choreographers behind the mega-expensive song Malang from Dhoom 3.

Born in a family of renowned Kathak dancers, she gave Gopi Krishna's first kathak performance at the age of four. Also trained in bharatnatyam and Odissi, she stopped dancing in her teens after her parents passed away and she felt she couldn't carry forward the family legacy.

Even my mother has started to understand what locking and popping is: Shakti Mohan

While in college, she was coaxed by her friends to dance again after she choreographed a routine for them. Later, she joined Terence Lewis' academy, where she trained in various dance forms and also performed alongside Lewis in many shows. She also went on to assist him in shows like DID, Season 1 and 2 and Nachle Ve with Saroj and Terence.

The acclaimed choreographer has trained many actors like Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Jacqueline Fernandez Urmila Matondkar, Yana Gupta and Malaika Arora Khan.

Shakti Mohan
As a child, she injured her leg in an accident and was told that she would never walk again. However, with the support and encouragement of her family and friends, Mohan not only walked, but ran and danced. In fact, her feet catapulted her into success.

Currently, she stars in a dance-based show, Dil Dosti Dance.

The winner of DID, Season 2 is excited with the changes in the Indian dance industry. "People are now experimenting a lot more than before. It is also heartening to see people accepting us as professionals and not just background dancers," Mohan says. "Even my mother, who till a few years ago only knew of classical dance, has started to understand and respect locking and popping."

Even though Mohan assisted Vaibhavi Merchant in Dhoom 3, she is not too keen to be a full-time Bollywood choreographer. "I am more keen on performing and acting right now," she says. "Perhaps I will think of choreography in a few years."

Mohan did an item number, Aa Re Pritam Pyare in Rowdy Rathore and is keeping her options open. She has just wrapped up an item number in Subhash Ghai's next film and has more in the pipeline.

It is a form of hip-hop dancing and is popularly known as breaking. It consists of complex footwork, spinning moves (aka power moves), and freezes.
It is an urban street dance form that began in South Central Los Angeles and is characterised by free, expressive and highly energetic moves, involving the arms, head, legs, chest and feet.
A street dance style from California, it works on the technique of contracting and relaxing muscles suddenly to cause a jerk in the dancer's body. This, in combination with various movements and poses, is done continuously to the rhythm of a song.

Robotics Dance Style
As the name suggests, it is actually dancing like a robot. But it is different from popping. In this case, the dancer moves a part of the body and then brings it to an abrupt stop. These moves are called Dimestops.

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From HT Brunch, March 30

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