I succumbed to the lure of the phenomenon called Shiamak, India’s dancing sensation who’s made thousands of ordinary Indians live out their dream of dancing like their favourite Bollywood stars.Scratch an Indian, and not too far below the surface, one will find a favourite hero or heroine, a song and a dance bubbling out. Have feet, will dance! is Shiamak Davar’s motto and one that is fervently embraced by people all across the country.
Over the last dozen years or so, Mumbai’s ace choreographer has opened centres in major cities where classes in various popular styles are taught. Bollywood, Hip-Hop, Contemporary, Salsa – from fast track summer camps to monsoon sessions to regular classes – there’s plenty of choice. And plenty of takers too, there are addicts who just can’t have enough of the classes and keep coming back for more.
It’s not enough just to learn the dance; the thrill is also in the big show that happens at the end of the classes. Zonal competitions are a huge hit, everybody gets their 4 minutes of time on stage and the grand finale is a treat to watch when the Show Kids, the Special Potential Batches and the Trainers perform to an ecstatic audience.
Here’s an insider’s account from my 15 days with Shiamak. Deciding to give my sluggish metabolism a jolt, and bored with the gym, I signed up for the Beginner’s class in the Summer Funk fast track class. Our peppy and immensely likeable teachers Snigdha and Tuhin decided to teach us a hip-hop medley.
First day – held back hurling my lunch all across the floor, back of the head ached. Struggled to the car and drove home, half dead.
Second class – slightly better – though bouts of acidity flashed up and down during the warm up
Third class – body is starting to feel it belongs to me
Fourth class – all the other students appear to have learnt so many steps, while I had been trying to disentangle my limbs.
Never mind. Wednesday & Friday evenings, Saturday at fricking 8 am and Sunday late afternoon- for 3 weeks, these classes were my priority (I missed only 2 very reluctantly).
All along, I had no intention of going up on stage and performing for an audience (not that I am shy, it seemed just a little desperate for the limelight). I didn’t pay much attention to fervent talks of costumes – photos flew up and down on Whatsapp and FB, someone bought tops, another bought bandannas. One of the boys booked space for extra rehearsals and I was happy to come early and stay late just to learn the steps. Two days before the show, when I announced that I wouldn’t be joining the group on stage, there was a surge of protests. I compromised and agreed to join the group at the beginning and the end of the dance – I hadn’t managed to learn the rapid sequence of steps that transited from ‘Summer’ to ‘ Lean on’ and didn’t want to make the group look bad.
So one Sunday afternoon, there I was, feeling distinctly silly in the costume – (black tights & tee, with a neon green cropped top – pinned in place by the perky 14 year old Khushi, who admonished me not to tug it down). As the 13 of us, 10 female and 3- we were the smallest group- lined up for the tech rehearsal – I seemed to have taken a fast train back in time. As we watched other dance groups in exotic costumes, we bemoaned our lack of creativity and went into spasms of panic about forgotten movements.
Soon, it was show time. As we lined up in the wings waiting for the group ahead of us to finish, another group was taking its place behind us. In it was 30 year old Mehul, a friend who had talked me into joining the class. “I’m tired”, he said, looking it. I smiled, my 50 year old body was raring to go!
The stage lights went off, we skipped demurely to our places and stood heads low. On cue, our hands moved, legs swung, hips gyrated and boy! Did we dance!!
PS: I was home by 9 pm – there was no after-party with my classmates, most of whom are high school students. And show day was the last day of summer vacation. We are already making plans to join the monsoon classes.
Meet my fellow students:
*One of the students was from a small town in Orissa. She had just finished Class 12, and having found the Shiamak classes online, had hotfooted it to Bangalore for the class, staying as paying guest for a few weeks.
*On the day of the show, we found out that the best dancer in our class, a gorgeous young woman who was in our class, had actually been a dance teacher with Shiamak Davar’s company. She hadn’t danced in 12 years; after she got married, she spent her time looking after her husband, their two kids and her in-laws. “I never miss watching the Summer Funk show when I am on vacation. This has been the only time that the dates of the dance camp and my holidays worked out for me to attend the class”.
*Another classmate is a senior project lead in a prestigious IT company, and is a complete Shiamak addict, having attended umpteen classes. But nobody in her office knows that she dances; “I have worked very hard to reach my post – I’m the youngest in my position. If my colleagues know that I dance, they wouldn’t take me seriously at work”.
Shiamak stands for education, entertainment and empowerment. It certainly gave me all three – I learnt to open myself up, without ego; the music and dance were hugely entertaining, and after years of back and ankle pain, finding my body gain strength and responding to instructions has been hugely empowering.