Khushnuma Jabulee speaks to India and Bollywood’s favourite choreographer, Shiamak Davar
Zoroastrians, also known as Parsis are like a very rare species of exotic animals which must be preserved at all costs. Though we are lesser in numbers, we very well make up for them through our contributions and achievements in society ever since before India’s independence. I will bring to you, the readers, more such Parsi folk who have either contributed to the society or have done very well for themselves amidst the Community. Therefore, the person I would like to put in the spotlight today is a dance legend who has worked wonders for performing arts in India, Shiamak Davar.
At what age did you decide to start dancing and did you think that your love and passion for the art-form will drive you to where you are today?
Dancing happened to me much later. My first love was singing and I used to act in a lot of musical productions. I chanced upon dance classes at the Pineapple Studio in London where the teacher thought I had prior training. She was shocked to know I had never learnt ballet before that. I took the training forward and then decided to come back and start western jazz dance classes in India. I realized my mission was to spread joy through dance. Thirty years later, it’s a pleasure to watch the same people send their kids to my class who back in the day used to wonder what am I doing dancing and conducting classes!
When did you realize that you wanted to dance for a living and how did you convince your family into letting you pursue your dream?
I was very sure that the performing arts was my calling. Whether singing, performing in plays, dancing or choreographing. My parents were educationists. They were very clear I had to finish my graduation before I decided to follow my dream. Education is very important. It is this background that made me take up education of a different kind, that is, dance education.
How vivid is your memory of your first ever break as a professional dancer in Bollywood?
I started out my classes with just seven students, five of whom were family and friends. I truly believed in what I was doing and I never doubted myself or looked back. Commercially, Dil Toh Pagal Hai was the first break. I thought my style was too western for Bollywood. Shah Rukh’s wife Gauri used to dance with me, and both of them were very insistent that I choreograph it. Yash uncle was one of the finest people I have ever met and he gave me complete creative freedom. Little did I know I’ll win the National Award for it.
What was the driving force behind you starting the Shiamak Davar Dance Academy?
To make people experience the same joy that I derived from dancing and performing. My motto is ‘Have Feet. Will Dance.’ which reiterated the fact that everyone can dance. It is space for people to come and express themselves through movement, without being judged. Whether they are four or eighty four, everyone learns and performs on stage. The sense of achievement and fulfillment they get is greater than any other feeling. It’s been over thirty years and it’s great to see the impact it has had on people. Through my NGO Victory Arts Foundation, I took the motto one step further to ‘Have Spirit. Will Triumph.’ And you can see people with crutches or on wheelchairs, people with mixed needs all performing on stage. Dance truly heals.
What are your thoughts on the youth of today as compared to that of a few decades ago?
I think in general the new generation is more competitive and hard working. They have much more clarity on what they want from life than we did. They are more independent than we were back in the day.
You have been in this very profession for a long time, as well as a part of the industry. What do you think has remained constant and what has changed over the years?
Like I said, one thing that never changes is people will always appreciate genuine talent and hard work. Dance has evolved a lot over the years and you also need to keep re-inventing yourself.
The international boundaries have also opened up to the Bollywood dance genre. What do you think is the scope of our styles of dance there?
It’s very relevant. Bollywood is a rage internationally. Across UK, USA, UAE, Canada and Australia – people are so enthusiastic!
Are there any other things you are planning to do in the present or near future, whether in dance or any other field?
My focus is my dance school. There are films and shows that happen during the year but my main priority is always dance education. I teach students of my One Year Certification Program daily for three to four hours. This gives me maximum joy.
There are so many people who look upto you for breaking into the entertainment industry via dance and carving a name for yourself. Do you have any advice for people who want to make it as a professional dancer?
Be original. People will always appreciate something that is new and something that comes naturally. Train and learn before you think of becoming a professional. It takes years of hard work and dedication, there are no short cuts. Most importantly, be happy! If you love what you do, you will always do well.