'I have my own ideas'

Dancing away

Dancer and choreographer Astad Deboo, who has a career in art spanning nearly half-a-century and an army of students, is now focussing on introducing the underprivileged young to his style of dance.

Experienced :  Astad Deboo

Through his five-piece performance titled ‘Breaking Boundaries’, which was staged recently, he brought on stage street children from Salaam Balak Trust, New Delhi who left the audience in amazement.

“When training somebody, I don’t look at the background. It wasn’t difficult for me. It was more difficult for them as they were aware I would work with rigour. Also, they had to make the shift from the only dance training they had — Bollywood dance,” says Deboo.

While Deboo’s performance went beyond the ordinary focussing on minimalism, space and the concept of defying gravity, he doesn’t fail to emphasise how each of them follow his signature style and have nothing to do with Bollywood dancing.

One wonders what makes him averse to Bollywood, the dance more specifically. “I am not really averse to Bollywood. But they do the same seven or eight steps over and over again. It is more about the camera angles and locations than the dance,” he says. “I watch a lot of Hindi films.

I liked the way Ooh La La was conceptualised. I have done Meenaxi, Omkara and Raavan in the past, but my focus is not Bollywood. It is not the be all and end all of my work. I have my own ideas and fantasies,” he adds.

Having started out at the age of 13, the man has an illustrious career in dance, a life full of adventure that includes running away from Mumbai aboard a vessel, and even selling an ounce of blood to support himself. Added accolades include the Padma Shri and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. He believes his choice of career and his path couldn’t be another way.

“If not a dancer I would still be a dancer,” he says. He has trained in both classical Indian and Western styles of dance and developed a form of his own. “Dance is something that is very hard to describe. My style is a fusion of Indian classical dance with contemporary dance,” he says.

He believes education in dance is of utmost importance for a dancer and that contemporary dance needs to be defined too. “Education is important. You need to have your basics. Dancers these days can’t even explain what they call ‘contemporary’. It is the most blasphemously used word. I am not a prophet, but you have to work hard,” he tells.

At 65, Deboo remains unstoppable, choreographing and performing alongside the youth he trains. He follows a strict workout regime and fasts on performance days. He has many plans ahead and admits he isn’t going to stop dancing yet.

“I have been fasting on performance days for the past 30 years, it has been some sort of a ritual. Besides, I work out and keep myself fit,” he says. About his plans ahead he says, “The work continues. I am now working on a project that involves interpreting Tagore with eight street kids.”

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