Dance is their passion and now they are leading the way for others to discover its joys. Sarthak Mahendru and Anup Bhardwaj have won several titles for their prowess on the dance floor in some tough reality shows impressing the likes of Terence Lewis, Farah Khan, Remo Dsouza among others in the process. They carried their Bollywood experience to the UAE setting up Transformers Dance Studios (TDS), which, since its inception in 2016, has trained hundreds of aspiring dancers in Bollywood freestyle, Hip Hop, Jazz, Contemporary, Bolly Salsa and similar dance forms. Ever since they set up, TDS have done interesting things to promote dance like organising a workshop with legend Pandit Birju Maharaj, training beauty pageant contestants, performing for leading corporate shows and award functions, holding training sessions with a celeb choreographer from Broadway Dance Centre and more. Their students have carried their fame far and wide, sweeping awards at numerous dance competitions in the UAE and beyond. One of the quickest growing dance studios in the UAE, Sarthak and Anup introduce us to the magical world of dance.
What led to setting up Transformers Dance Studio?
Having worked in Dubai for the last seven-eight years, we noticed the growing demand for intensive or speciality dance education. Lots of students have learnt dance in dance studios but haven't been able evolve or grow in the field - that's where we come in. We like to increase the levels of our training for each student based on their capabilities and set a tough bar for them which they may find challenging initially but help them grow and evolve as a dancer. How are you learning if it's all easy?
We emphasise on the importance of understanding beats by counts thus making choreography techniques sharper, more coordinated, quick-paced and easier to perform. Some of our students have won in shows like UAE's Got Talent, Sony TV'S OMO Super Dancer, Dance Off at Gitex Shopper, Just Dance Interschool Dance Competition and lots more.
You have worked with the likes of Javed Jaaferi, Remo Dsouza, Shiamak Davar, Terence Lewis so on. Can you share any anecdote about them that affected you?
Nearly a decade ago, when we were in India, we spent a lot of our time doing reality shows and performing aerial stunts and contemporary acts. Terence Lewis, the guru of Contemporary dance in India, was on the judges panel and after every performance, he would compliment our group as we performed contemporary acts in the most authentic style. The respect, affection and love he showed us gave us a lot of confidence. Today, we have our own studio and we train our students to take part in similar dance competitions in Dubai.
About a year ago, we took part in a group dance competition in Dubai where we trained a bunch of our students and won! The judge happened to be Terence Lewis! Impressed with the performance, he asked to meet the choreographers of the act and thus met us again. He remembered us after all these years and was proud and happy. These little moments make our efforts worthwhile!
What are the opportunities available for youngsters in Dubai who may want to take up dance as a career?
Entering a stereotypical profession is now a thing of the past. Be it a reality dance TV show or other dance competitions, dance is now a full-time profession. When we heard about the reality TV show Nach Baliye 7 taking place in Dubai, we decided to apply for it and give it a shot! We trained one of our students and after a few months of hard work, we won the Nach Baliye 7 title and were flown down to Mumbai to perform on their sets. With all the fame and recognition, our student went on to pursue her dance career at Broadway Dance Centre, New York where she is currently taking further training. This is just a small example of what one can pursue in dance.
What has been your most memorable performance?
Winning performances of Nach Baliye 7 and Jhalak Dikhhla Ja! Our team bagged the first and second prize at Nach Baliye 7 and bagged the first prize at Jhalak Dikhhla Ja! It wasn't just about winning the title but also the immense love and support we received from all our students and clients that mattered.
Which dance form did you find most challenging?
Aerial acts were a bit of a challenge when we first started about 10 years ago. At the time, it was important to be able to understand and maintain body balance. Once we got the hang of it, it was a piece of cake! Advanced levels of ballet and chhau can also be tricky too. Some styles we have worked with are Hip Hop, Krumping, Bboying, Jazz, Contemporary, Bollywood, Ballet, Bachata, Salsa, Chhau, Jive, Bhangra, Locking, Popping, Electro, Shuffle, Merengue, Reggaeton, Cha Cha and lots more!
Our top favourites though are Hip Hop, Contemporary, Bollywood Freestyle and Bhangra!
You have trained in International dance studios. What difference did you notice between the West and the East in terms of approach to dance and training?
Students in the west are definitely more passionate, serious and dedicated whereas students in Dubai particularly aren't as much. This is mainly due to Dubai being an expat-oriented place and people prefer to dance here more as a means to get away from work or school or to get fit.
Also, the concept of a "dance guru" doesn't exist in the West so there's much more respect in that aspect in the East.
In terms of dance as a form and style, the west is like a massive dance factory that invents and manufactures new dance styles and techniques which are then taken internationally and toyed with. We have seen a lot of Hip Hop and western influences in Bollywood choreographies. Western influences are fused into Bollywood dancing and suddenly, you've created something new! With respect to teaching methods, it was a pleasant surprise that the west uses the same techniques that we use to teach and give equal importance to beats and counts.
What are the biggest advantages of taking part in reality shows?
There are lots of perks. You get exposure, gain experience, have intensive dance education and you meet and interact with lots of different people who are competing with you mastering dance styles completely different from yours. Also, you get to learn from each other and share your knowledge and grow. We used to dance 18-20 hours every single day for a week till our performance was aired and once we finished the performance, it was another 18-20 hours every day preparing for the next one. All these years of training and working hard has gotten us where we stand today!
MEET THE TRAINERS
Along with Sarthak and Anup, here are the other two boys making up TDS...
Vikyath Poojary is a 24-year-old professional dancer and choreographer who specializes in Bboying and Contemporary dance styles. He has also won Dubai’s Dancing Sensation 2013, Jhalak Dikhlaja UAE Extravaganza 2012 and Boogie Woogie Internationals (UAE) 2010.
Akshay Dhoke inherited and polished his skills from choreographers like Ganesh Acharya, Bosco Ceasor and so on. He has also performed in reality dance TV shows like Yeh Hai Jalwa and Dance Dhoom.