'Bollywood dance films are Hollywood rip-offs'

'Bollywood dance films are Hollywood rip-offs'

Master dancer

He performed for the first time at the age of six, and over the years, Terence Lewis has trained extensively in Indian and Western dance disciplines, both in India and abroad. He was one of the judges on the first season of the recently-concluded show, So You Think You Can Dance, and is known for choreographing in movies like Naach and Lagaan. In a conversation with Metrolife, he tells Shweta Sharma about his love affair with dance, how reality shows sometimes leave the contestants disillusioned, and how so many dance styles still remain unexplored.

When did your tryst with dance begin?
At the very onset of my childhood, I began to love the attention I received from my performances. Stage became my home, and dance, my second language. I was six when I performed for the first time, and after I finished, I looked at the faces that were looking at me and my appetite grew from that day on.
However, formal training came eight years later. I was representing my school for the All Mumbai Dance Championship and there was a judge by the name of Pervez Shetty, who while awarding me the first prize said, “Don’t get too excited… you were the best of the worst”. I was shocked at her statement as I had done a fantastic routine. I asked her to tell me my shortcomings, and she said that while the choreography was great, the level of dancing, its execution and technique were poor. So I told her that if she thought that way, what could she do to change it? She gave me a three-month scholarship that changed my life, and the way I perceived dance. Then, at 26, I formally got trained at the summer intensive of
Alvin Ailey.

How has your journey been?
I have been constantly evolving through my profession. I initially had to learn direction, camera angles, cinematography, shot breakdown, costumes, continuity, and editing. However, I have quit choreographing for films and TV since the past five years after my successful stint as a judge. I have finally found my space.

How essential are reality shows for upcoming dancers?
Reality shows are great opportunities for dancers to earn their success and short-lived fame, but they can make you disillusioned. Many cannot handle the fact that after the show is over they are no longer in the spotlight. It can be a good platform to jumpstart your career, but not all make it post their first show. Not all dancers, though, need television as a medium to prove their talent. The best dancers have not been famous because of being seen on TV, but because their dance was their passion and they continued to dance and be happy no matter whether they were famous or not.

What qualities make for a good dancer?
There is no substitute for training. Also, having a good teacher to lay the foundation is essential, and so is a good school for establishing a strong base. Practice and focus, creativity and patience, make up a good dancer. To stand out from the crowd, one has to be oneself, seek the path that excites them, and focus on making it better. Versatility is the key. One can become really good in one style but after that one should open up to learn other styles.

Unlike the West, there have not been many dance movies in Bollywood. Why is it so?
It is unfortunate that dance does not seem to garner interest as an independent topic. Most of our stories revolve around love or war. And even the ones we made on dance are mere rip-offs of Hollywood films. We lack originality, and even though the dance may be great in these films, the story and storytelling is poor.

Your views on Bollywood choreography at present.
I personally feel that due to all the technological advances we have become clever with choreography, but I see a lot of cut paste work. There is too much editing and quick cuts without long shots. The frames are filled with foreign girls and locations, and dance is missing. I want it to go back to old school — not in terms of dance styles, as today we have made great progress in dance, but in the way it is shot. Today, it is such a farce. There are too many dance styles that have just not been explored and choreographers are too smug to learn and do new things.

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