Western classical ballet is still a very unfamiliar art form in India. But in the last few years, promising talent has begun emerging, often in dancers from disadvantaged or working-class families with no prior association with Western classical music or dance.
In the absence of live ballet performances, the entry point for most aspirants has been film, notably Bollywood, or an initial interest in other dance styles.
Kamal Singh, currently in his early 20s and from the outskirts of Delhi, is the son of a rickshaw driver. A ballet sequence in the 2013 Bollywood movie ABCD: Any Body Can Dance led him to train with a ballet instructor in Delhi, and three years later, he is studying further at the English National Ballet School.
But the bigger hub for many ballet newcomers has been Mumbai, India’s “City of Dreams,” known for its thriving film industry.
From Surfing YouTube to Training in Paris
Dipesh Verma, from Siliguri, West Bengal, became smitten with ballet at 13 after watching his teen dance idol, Sophia Lucia, on YouTube. As the son of a grocer and a daily-wage worker, it wasn’t easy for him to go against his parents’ expectations of pursuing a more “secure” profession, like medicine.
Photo of Manish Chauhan and Elizabeth Gollar in the studio with Yehuda Maor by Leslie Shampaine.
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