From Ballet To Bollywood

15 Feb


From ballet to Bollywood

The lack of professionalism in Bollywood was a culture shock to Terence Lewis when he landed from New York. Then he decided to shake things up a bit and how! BHUMIKA K. struggles to keep pace with the nimble-footed choreographer


LITHE LAD Terence Lewis: “I don’t want to change Bollywood. But the same repetitive going around in circles is not good enough. We need to go off on a tangent” Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

He can’t root himself in one place and flits about with a sprightly gait. Almost like a butterfly. I plod behind to keep pace. His hair streaked and wavy, a diamond sparkling in one ear, those super high cheekbones, slim waist and lithe legs define the young Turk who’s taken Bollywood by storm.

Terence Lewis’s mother once told him he could not earn a living by shaking his bum. She couldn’t have been more wrong.

New tangents

Choreographing the ballroom waltz in Lagaan, making Aamir Khan dance to his tunes (no mean feat that) and getting Anatara Mali to almost look like a contortionist in Naach and now the “Fitna Dil” number in Shikhar, Terence Lewis is taking Bollywood naach-gaana off the beaten track.

“I don’t want to change Bollywood. But the same repetitive going around in circles is not good enough. We need to go off on a tangent,” says Terence, crackling with energy. He was in Bangalore to celebrate Siemens’s 50 years of manufacturing in India with Golden Footprints, a dance-music melange where he teamed up with a German jazz ensemble and India’s own Louiz Banks.

The youngest of eight siblings, 32-year-old Terence first took the traditional route and studied microbiology, then hotel management, and dropped everything to teach dance. He dabbled in modelling and got Manhunted before he realised life was a dance.

“I realised I was doing bullshit and felt like a loser for bowing down to conventional pressures and not following my own dream,” recalls Terence. “I was such a nautankiya. I would dance at weddings and people would give me gifts of money. I was a real stage hog, very indulgent. I have such a sinful quality on stage,” he gushes unabashedly about himself.

But aren’t men who dance predominantly seen as effeminate? “All kinds of art borrows from the feminine. All creation is by women. After all, you are your mother’s son also. We take from the male and the female but it shouldn’t topple to one side. But if you want to be effeminate it’s fine. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m human. I cry in movies!” He went to New York to study contemporary dance at the legendary Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham schools. Over the years he’s learnt ballet, jazz, Kathak, yoga and — hold your breath — the mallakhamb! “Any movement for me is beautiful. If a body moves well, it’s good enough. I travel abroad a lot and they don’t care that I know ballet or jazz. They want to know what form of movement I can bring from India,” is how he explains his varied interests. He also loves Prabhu Deva and his isolated technique of dancing.

He dubs his siblings Aurangzeb’s children — far removed from music and dance and entirely into academics. “For them it was all about academics and survival.”

He started with fitness training and now has an impressive line-up of starlets and their families who want to keep fit. As a personal trainer, he’s made sure that a whole bevy of women including Madhuri Dixit, Amisha Patel, Yana Gupta, Malaika Arora Khan, Bipasha Basu, Suzanne Hrithik Roshan, Gauri Shah Rukh Khan and Anatara Mali have toned up to his tunes. His concept of the “dancercise” really caught on with fitness becoming more fun if done to a tune.

In 2000, he set up the Terence Lewis Contemporary Dance Company and a formal dance school that offers a three-year scholarship programme for those who want to take up dance as a profession. Since there is a lot of money and fame attached to the profession now, there are students willing to train seriously.

But when he first set foot in Bollywood, it was a culture shock after doing artistic ballet. “After working with a whole lot of professionals, they ask you to work with actors not trained in dance. The actors don’t come for rehearsal because they are forced to dance… It’s almost like prostitution!” Of course, there are always the hard workers, he says, like Madhuri, Aamir, Shah Rukh, Amitabh Bachchan, who really work hard and take their dancing seriously. In fact, Antara Mali attended a three-month workshop with him before she went in front of the camera for Naach. “Stars often carry so much baggage, they can’t submit to a choreographer. Very few are dedicated. The rest just faff around and want to be treated like divas.”

A confused lot

He also believes that Bollywood is a confused lot, where the most important influence in dance is the West. The look and style is imitated but never the feel. “What works best is a khichdi style!” he laughs. He also has his angst against item numbers. “They are done so senselessly. It’s just fast cuts, good looking foreign girls, and no choreography,” he says, genuinely appalled at the lack of standard in these items numbers.

Terence looks at contemporary dance as an offshoot of classical, not something that will subvert rich tradition. “Classical dance forms in India are stuck in a time warp. It’s high time they moved ahead and changed to suit modern times. Contemporary is only a reinvention of the classical; only, a modern flavour is added,” he says, presenting a lot of pluck.


Hindu On Net

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