Choreographer Terence Lewis feels talent, rigour, focus and discipline are important to become a professional dancer. But he warns that it is not an easy profession to break into as there are limited opportunities along with a number of occupational hazards. A firm believer in the guru-shishya tradition, Terence recently collaborated with Media & Entertainment Skills Council (MESC), an industry led sector skill council set up through the Ministry of Skill Development an Entrepreneurship to create skilled resources for media and entertainment industry, to launch Creative Warriors Online courses.
www.lifeandmore.in had an exclusive e-interview with the talented choreographer…
When and how did you get associated with MESC initiative, Creative Warriors?
I have been associated with the MESC for over a year as a member of the General Council and have been impressed by the work that they do. The lockdown provided us the opportunity to go online with this one-day workshop and webinar. We are discussing ways of working together to help the dance community grow, and grow more professional!
Creative alright but why warriors? Do creativity and warriorship go together?
As an artiste, you are always forging new paths ahead! Laying new ground creatively, coming up with ideas in the face of adversity. These are all part and parcel of working as an artiste. In the best of times, support for artistes is limited, particularly in our country, where other more pressing social issues such as health, food poverty, education are the focus for both government and private funding sources. So artistes in our country have to approach their work with a certain amount of resilience, coupled with their creativity.
What does one need to have in him or her to be a dancer?
Talent, rigour, focus, and discipline! There are many people who have talent but to make it as a professional dancer, you need a certain personality. It’s not an easy profession to break into – opportunities are limited, plus there are occupational hazards like risk of injury to the body. You do need a lot of drive as well as talent to make it to the top.
When did you start dancing and what was the reaction back home when he disclosed that he wanted to learn dancing and take it up as a choreographer?
I started dancing in the early to mid-90s after studying biochemistry and then hotel management. I began as a fitness trainer first, with a “dancercise” model – combining aerobics with dance routines to help women lose weight. That career took off very successfully and I was soon training stars including Madhuri Dixit!
How difficult is it to teach dancing to someone who doesn’t know how to shake a leg?
Not difficult at all if you break down the steps methodically and precisely. Of course, the level that you can bring the student up to will depend on that student’s talent, skill and application. But there are plenty of teaching techniques that can help an instructor facilitate the process. For example, you can deconstruct hearing the music beat, for those who do not move in time to it inherently. It’s not difficult to do but as a teacher, any teacher, you need to have patience!
Filmmaking is a much more long-drawn out, fragmented process. And films are made in the edit room which, as a choreographer, means you don’t have full control of the creative process.
How did you get an entry into Bollywood and what made you say that you don’t enjoy doing films?
I was given a break by filmmaker Ashutosh Gowarikar and Aamir Khan in Lagaan. Aamir’s then wife Reena Dutta was a client of mine, during my dancercise days. She recommended that I choreograph a song, and so it all began. I did enjoy the creative process of choreographing for films, but somehow live performance has always drawn me more. The immediacy with the audience, the collective experience of sharing the stage, the thrill of it being a “one-time-only” event. Filmmaking is a much more long-drawn out, fragmented process. And films are made in the edit room which, as a choreographer, means you don’t have full control of the creative process.
Do you advise youngsters to take up dancing as a profession and what is its future?
I believe dancing is a vocation, and you should take it up only if you are strongly compelled to do so. In terms of career opportunities it has grown considerably in the last five years. The avenues are multifold: you can join a stage company for live performances (award shows, corporate events like product launches, stage musicals and weddings), or be a junior artiste in films. Many dancers teach simultaneously either for a larger organisation or on their own. And of course, most graduate to choreography.
How different is a dancer from a choreographer? Who scores better?
Not all good dancers are great choreographers or vice versa! It’s a different skill set, choreography requires a much more visionary bent of mind. You need to be able to visualise and see pictures in your mind, and then interpret those to movement. A choreographed piece needs an arc, a certain graph to it. And there is a conceptual interpretation of themes, stories or ideas as well. Some dancers are better at this than others. And some choreographers are talented dancers, while some may not have the same level of technical ability!
Your take on mushrooming dance academies and schools in every nook and corner of the country?
In a certain sense, it is good for the growth of the dance industry, and provides professional dancers with a degree of financial security. The worry, of course, is that untrained trainers and poorly equipped studios can wreak havoc in terms of inflicting injury. But in the larger scheme of things – I see anything that spreads the Joy Of Dance as a positive. Dance has a huge amount of mental, emotional and physical benefits and I started a movement called ABCD (Any Body Can Dance) years ago. My friend, Remo Fernandez, borrowed the title for his movie! But I truly believe a dancing nation is a happy, healthy nation – and I intend to make dance training accessible to people of all ages, sizes and walks of life! Naachna zaroori hai!!