Sunday Herald Entertainment: Have feet, will dance

Sunday Herald Entertainment: Have feet, will dance

Contemporary dance guru Shiamak Davar dreams with his feet. He discusses all things dance with A Varsha Rao

Shiamak Davar

Shiamak Davar needs no introduction. His uber-cool moves reveal his life story. Be it his National award-winning choreography in Dil Toh Pagal Hai, or his carefully designed dances for stage shows such as IIFA Awards, dance and Shiamak share a symbiotic relationship. He truly embodies the spirit of ‘have feet, will dance’. A National award-winner, this 56-year-old choreographer recently launched his annual dance show, ‘Summer Funk’. And this time, the theme is the great Indian celebration of marriage. His only agenda for this programme, he says, is to help everyone experience the joy of dance.

Here are excerpts from a conversation:

Tell us about ‘Summer Funk: The Shaadi Musical’ programme.

‘Summer Funk’ is an annual student show that we have been doing for over 20 years now. Students from all walks of life, from ages 4 to 84, learn their favourite dance style over a period of 15 classes and perform on stage in a professional setup. This year, we are doing the show in the format of a musical called ‘The Shaadi Musical’. Here, students will learn and perform a show in the format of a big Indian wedding. Weddings are a celebration and dance is the best way to express that celebration. This year, ‘Summer Funk’ is going to be in the form of storytelling with acting, music, dance, and that’s what will make it different.

How has dance evolved since you started out?

Dance has come a long way from when I started off almost 30 years ago. Then, dance wasn’t even accepted as a profession. There were very few opportunities for any person interested in dance. Even for me, to get a dance studio, or a space to conduct my classes, was difficult. Today, parents have become very supportive. In my classes, everybody, aged between 4 and 84, learns dance — it changes their personalities. There are training programmes and courses for those who want to make a career out of it, too. There is also a lot of cultural exchange where many of our teachers go abroad to train and many international teachers come here to do the same, so the journey has been fantastic.

Dance schools are blooming everywhere today. What’s your take on it?

It’s great to see that many dance schools are now opening across the country. I hope they have professionally trained staff. Watching videos on YouTube and copying the moves don’t make you a professional dancer. Half-baked knowledge is harmful because dance is a physical activity, so you may end up harming your students. So, take time to train and then start your dance school.

You are known for revolutionising Bollywood dance. Do you like what you are seeing on the big screen today?

Dance on the big screen has obviously found a better structure. Choreography has also evolved. The only thing I miss is the continuous movement in choreography, which used to be there earlier. When Helenji would dance, there would be one entire piece of choreography we would see in a flow, which was beautiful. Today, with editing, there are a lot of cuts in the movement, so it’s very easy to make everyone look like great dancers. But yes, in terms of presentation and quality, it has definitely come a long way, and the choreographers are doing a great job.

Do you believe Indian dancers are getting their due on the global platform?

The world has definitely become a smaller dance community today. There are a lot of Indian dancers going abroad. It takes time for people to see the amount of talent we have in our country. But, there is progress in that direction.

Can anyone learn the ‘Shiamak style’ of dance?

My style of choreography blends Indo-contemporary and modern movements with a folk influence. There is a beginner’s level as well, but to do the advanced levels, people need a very strong technical background. It is a difficult form of dance that requires a lot of style, rhythm sense, flexibility, agility and strength.

You choreograph award show performances. Could you take us through the process?

There is a lot of planning that goes into choreographing stage shows — deciding on the theme of the show, the artistes, and the celebrities who actually perform; editing the music; creating visuals; choreographing; incorporating props and sets; designing costumes. There are multiple departments involved in making each act come alive. And most importantly, we have to ensure that the true individuality of the celebrity performer comes through their act.

How easy or difficult is it to teach dance to actors for films?

I think most actors are extremely hard-working and dedicated to the art. I’ve always had a great time choreographing and working with them, right from Dil Toh Pagal Hai to Jagga Jasoos. Honestly, I’m very selective about the film projects that I take up. I have always worked with directors who have given me complete creative liberty, so it has always been a treat.