The Story

Mahish in alley Mumbai

Manish is captivated by ballet’s athleticism but doesn’t tell his hardworking parents that he has dropped out of business school and used the tuition to pay for dance classes.

70-year-old Israeli-American Yehuda Ma’or arrived in India to teach ballet at an inner-city dance school. He had a renowned career as a dancer and had been a teacher to ballet’s greatest stars, like Rudolf Nureyev. Teaching at an inner-city dance school in Mumbai is not what Yehuda is used to – but it’s a job.

When he discovers Manish, he feels like he’s won the lottery. Yehuda believes that Manish has the right stuff to dance professionally. For two years he trains him hard: prodding, cajoling, and encouraging him through 4 classes a day. But the competition is incredibly daunting. Only 3% of dance students are invited to join professional companies. And Manish started late when most students have been training since they were small children.

There is a lot of catching up to do – and the odds are further stacked against him because of his background. India has no ballet tradition, and Manish faces constant pressure to earn money to support his family. His father is a taxi driver barely able to make ends meet.

Manish and Yehuad in class

“Dancing is a hobby for rich kids,” his father tells him.

The extended family criticizes his parents, shaming them because Manish isn’t employed or even married.

Manish with is parents
He is invited to study internationally, a remarkable triumph for Manish and Yehuda. His career is about to launch when he suffers a major setback: an injury that requires surgery and a lot of time to heal—a dancer’s worst nightmare. Manish completes rehabilitation from his injury and trains hard in preparation for auditions outside of India. But the pandemic is upending everything. Suddenly he has an offer in New York City…but can he take it?

Call Me Dancer is a story of hope, heartache, and hard work. Together, Manish and Yehuda transform each other’s lives, searching to uncover who and what they are. Yehuda seeks a purpose and a place to call home. Manish dreams of dancing on the world-stage but struggles to break free from the confines of his own economic and social circumstances.

Director’s Statement of Intent

The arts can change lives and can act as an instrument for erasing boundaries – be it racial, religious, socio-economic or national. Ballet master Yehuda Ma’or approached me to tell this story because I am a former professional ballet dancer and he knew I would bring an insider’s point of view, sensitivity and understanding to this story.

I wish to convey the passion and inner joy that dancers feel and that allows them to push past pain to become as good as they can be. I want audiences around the world to be moved by the telling of this story and to appreciate the enormous potential of dance  – and the arts in general – to bring people together.