At a young age, Sandip Soparrkar took to dance because he was fascinated by the idea of dancing with girls. However, soon he fell in love – not with the girls he met but with the various dance forms! His passion for dance grew to such an extent that he decided to put everything aside and make it his full-time career. Against all odds, he pursued his dreams and today, he is the only professional Indian ballroom dancer.
His skills have led him to work with some of the biggest names in Bollywood and the West (Madonna and Britney Spears) and recently, he even attended the 67th Cannes Film Festival to give a speech on Bollywood dancing. The flawless dancer was recently in Dubai to judge Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa dance competition where Masala! had a long chat with him…
What was your family’s reaction when you decided to make dance your career?
Umm… my mom was quite okay. She said, “If you wish to try something different you can.” My father was unhappy. He is half-Gujarati and half-Maharashtrian, so he had a very conservative mindset. He said, “You may dance but do something else as well.” But I said, “Dance bhi nahi karna hai dance hi karna hai.” He was quite upset but then I think he had no choice. Today, he is proud of me and is taking care of my Pune classes.
Which was the toughest phase in your path to becoming a dancer-choreographer?
The time when I used to compete in the European championships were tough. We used to rehearse for six or seven hours each day and it was very exhausting. We were working, not getting enough sleep and we had to make time for exercise and dance. It was too much! But then when I won those championships, everything would seem worth it.
Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa is a platform for non-dancers to become good dancers. What do you think is the effort they should put in to improve themselves?
The only key is to rehearse! You have to rehearse and practice a lot because dance is an art form that gets better with practice. Some take longer and others less time but everybody can reach there.
Some say I’m not a dancer, which is not true. Everybody is a dancer because as humans everything inside us has a rhythm. We hesitate to let ourselves go because we feel somebody will laugh at us. So it’s more mental stress than a physical issue. If you want to be a good dancer, you don’t really need to be flexible. You just have to know how to dance!
Is there any celebrity in particular you would like to choreograph for?
I would love to choreograph Madhuri Dixit because I have never done it. She had left the industry by the time I started doing film choreography but now she is back and I hope I get to work with her. I always wanted to work with Hrithik and Priyanka and I got a chance, so I’m satisfied. In Hollywood, I’d like to work with Jennifer Lopez. I have worked with Madonna, Britney Spears, Beyoncé Knowles and others but never with Jennifer Lopez.
Are you planning on establishing a branch of your dance institute in Dubai anytime soon?
I would love to do that.There have been talks about it for a very long time but it has never worked out.
Is your love story with Jesse Randhawa the outcome of dancing together or was dancing as a couple, the side-effect of falling in love?
That’s a very difficult question (laughs)! I think it was the way she used to dance. I met her for the first time when I was choreographing for Pooja Bhatt’s film, Holiday. Pooja decided to call Jesse for an audition because she wanted to cast her opposite Dino Morea. I auditioned her, found her to be a beautiful dancer. I wondered how lovely it would be to dance with someone like her! Unfortunately, she didn’t get the film because she was taller than Dino even without heels. But she matched my height perfectly, so I asked her if she would join me for my shows. Slowly, we started enjoying our collaboration. That’s how we got together.
What do you think should India do to preserve its folk dance culture?
I think dance reality shows should insist and make sure that the purity of the dance form is maintained. Everything is being Bollywoodised. Even in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, we have a Bollywoodised cha-cha, Bollywoodised Bharatanatyam, Bollywoodised everything! The authenticity and purity is completely lost.
People who are doing it must make sure that they do not start blending and making a fusion out of it because fusion finally becomes confusion.
Is there anyone you have in mind who will take forward what you have started?
I hope to! When I use to learn dancing, my teacher used to tell me that when you start teaching try to have at least one person who will take your dream forward with full dedication and determination. Well it’s not that easy because it requires a lot of dedication, which kids today lack. I remember when I used to dance, our teacher would remove her shoes and hit us if we didn’t get our steps right, we would practice for hours and were not allowed to leave the dance class till we perfected a move. Today, if I do that I’ll be behind bars! The concept, ways and teaching methods have changed. So something that took 10 years for a classical dancer to achieve will take 18 years now.
Do you believe that dance works as a healing therapy?
Of course! When music is played, your body starts moving and you release stress. It kind of excites you when you do something for yourself. It’s like dressing up in a designer outfit and feeling beautiful even if you are not looking beautiful. So I think dance does the same.