"Let go and enjoy yourself," advises choreographer Abhay Singh, to those who have two left feet. Having proved his mettle with some of the best choreographers in Bollywood, Abhay is now seeking bigger challenges
Abhay Singh, choreographer and dancer par excellence, considers Prabhu Deva, Michael Jackson and Govinda as his real teachers but it was at Shiamak Davar's institute in Pune that his inherent talent for dancing got a boost. One thing led to another and soon Abhay knew what he wanted to do in life – make a name for himself as a top notch choreographer and live out his passion for dance! Over the last few years, Abhay has certainly lived his dream. Abhay has choreographed about 70-80 wedding skits as well as high-profile corporate events apart from being a judge on the Just Dance Middle East Challenge. Having worked with the likes of Saroj Khan and Bosco-Caeser, Abhay is now considered among the top dancer-choreographers in the city. He tells Masala! all about his journey in the world of dance.
You graduated in marketing. How did you develop an interest in dancing?
My first memory of dancing was watching the Olympics opening ceremony again and again and then breaking into a small jiggle. My mum tells me that I was born to dance. I grew up watching the likes of Michael Jackson, Govinda and Prabhu Deva on TV; for me these idols were my first dance teachers. Dancing continued to be a part of my life, be it choreographing the annual day function in school, dancing on Talent Day or becoming the president of the Dance Club at university. In fact, my background in Marketing has helped my dance career. It helped me understand the needs of my clients and hone my digital marketing and communication skills.
What made you join Shiamak Davar's institute?
After completing my 11th grade I went to my hometown Pune for my summer vacations. Instead of wasting my holidays doing nothing my mother suggested I join Shiamak Davar's Institute of Performing Arts (SPIDA) for their presentation batch. I was reluctant initially since I had never really learnt structured dance from an instructor before. But when I joined the institute, there was an instant connect and the dance just flowed.
What are the biggest lessons you learnt from the institute?
I am still learning lessons in dance, for dance is an evolving art form. While at SDIPA, I learnt structured dance and the basics of jazz and ballet. But the biggest lesson was that the performance is not over till you are off the stage. Later I joined Bosco-Caesar's Dance Company as an instructor where I learnt that nothing is impossible. Bosco and Caesar and my seniors Augustus and Ranju guided me in the nuances of choreography, making me the instructor I
How did the idea to open a dance academy come about? What challenges did you face?
After SPIDA, I started giving dance classes at home. Soon after I was given the opportunity to audition as an instructor with Bosco and Caesar's Dance Company. After working with them for a little over a year, I started taking up small projects on my own. Thereafter I started my own classes in a rented studio where I had around 100 students. Now finally I am doing several projects like wedding choreography, corporate shows and other events. I am still under the process of opening an academy of my own. The biggest challenge, I feel, is finding a good location that will be convenient for the students.
What will be the courses offered at your dance academy? How will it differ from the other institutes in the city?
The courses that will be offered are Hip-Hop, Bollywood, Contemporary and B-Boying to start off with, but we will soon look into introducing Latin American dances as well. Most institutes here I feel, miss a structured format. At Abhay's Dance Academy, we will have different levels of difficulty for beginners, semi-pro and professionals. Along with practical knowledge of dance, ADA will also teach theory. But the most important thing is that the students must have fun because at the end of the day many students come to learn dance as a recreational activity and I believe that you dance best when you truly enjoy yourself.
You have choreographed for various celebrities. Can you share an interesting anecdote?
Yes I have worked with Lara Dutta, Mugdha Ghodse, Malaika Arora Khan and Javed Jaffery for various events. I recall this instance with Malika Arora Khan while working with her on a musical where I played her father. She looked at me and asked, 'How old are you?' I replied, '21 years Ma'am'. She burst out laughing wondering how a 21-year-old could play an old man! Another memorable incident was with Javed Jaffrey. I told him I couldn't give him any steps as he was my idol! But Javed Sir was very humble. He just told me, "You are here teaching me for the show; there must be something special in you, so don't worry and give your best!" I was touched, to say the least.
Who is your favourite choreographer?
I have a lot of favourites; each is a guru in their own style. Shiamak for Indo-jazz, Bosco-Caesar for Bollywood hip hop, Remo for popping and locking and Vaibhavi Merchant for Bollywood style. In the west, there are Wade Robson, Adam Shankman and Brian Freidman.
Which songs from recent films have impressed you the most?
That's a tough one. These days choreography isn't only about the steps in movies. It's the entire experience that matters. My favorites would be Disco Deewane, Jodha Akbar and Race. The choreographers for these songs did a marvelous job with the set design, camera work and steps. When they all come together as one package it remains an experience to cherish.
Do you think the talent for dancing is inherent or can it be developed?
Perhaps a few people may have an inherent talent for dance but to add finesse and compete, you need to develop your skills.
What tips would you suggest to a person who has two left feet if he or she wants to become a dancer?
Well dancing is very simple; you just have to let yourself go and enjoy yourself. While learning go slow and steady. Practise each step a few times. Develop a sense of rhythm. Also join Abhay's Dance Academy!
What are your hobbies aside from work?
Aside from my work and dance, I am a cricket enthusiast and have represented my school, universities and clubs at various levels. Self- defence also interests me a lot and I have a brown belt in karate. I also love acting and write poetry at times.
What made you switch to choreography?
After I started freelancing, I started taking up my own projects mainly wedding choreography for sangeets. That's when I actually switched completely to choreography. I still dance at certain events but they are very limited. I always believe that a "choreographer is a good dancer, but a good dancer isn't necessarily a good choreographer". When I started out as a dancer and would choreograph on my own there were a few mistakes, but working under the guidance of Bosco and Caesar helped me iron out my weaknesses.
You have also been a judge at reality shows. What has your experience been?
I have judged the Just Dance Middle East Competition apart from other inter-college competitions. Judging is an enriching experience as I get to witness the talent that is somewhere hidden in every performer. The hardest part as a judge is to tell someone they haven't qualified or won, but winning doesn't make one a better dancer. In fact the person who makes it to the final three always puts in the extra effort the next time around to emerge a winner.
I feel a winner in a dance competition must possess three main qualities – expression, clarity in choreography and presentation of the routine itself.
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