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Graceful steps to success

Tap your feet and let your body do the speaking... that's the philosophy of Shiamak Davar, dancer and choreographer.


FROM SOLE to soul — that's Shiamak Davar's story of trial and triumph. "I am not used to sitting straight in a chair (he preferred squatting on the table) and talking to a serious looking audience. My programmes are only about music and movements," said the dancer-choreographer-actor to the 100-odd members of the Duchess Club at Hotel Savera this past week. And he seemed to have proved himself right, for by the end of the show, most in the audience readily broke into a jig.

"Have feet will dance. What has age and size got to do with it," he said to pep up first timers on the floor. The National Award winner (for "Dil To Pagal Hai") has stars of Bollywood drooling over his dance style. In fact, it took veteran filmmaker Yash Chopra, Shah Rukh Khan and his wife Gauri (who was his student) almost a year to convince Shiamak to choreograph the songs for "Dil To Pagal Hai".

"I was wary of starry tantrums, but Madhuri Dixit, Karisma Kapoor and Shah Rukh surprised me by attending the rehearsals regularly. So did Aishwarya Rai while I was working on "Taal"."

The songs of these box-office grossers went on to become chart-busters. And Shiamak Davar had arrived. Those vulgar pelvic thrusts and raunchy gyrations were substituted with classy and subtle movements. The dancers, with decent figures who accompany the hero and heroine, are professionally trained students from the Shiamak Davar Institute for the Performing Arts, and definitely add grace to the song picturisation. Shiamak's dance form, a happy blend of body, mind and spirit, attempts to explore vistas never trodden before — Broadway style, rock'n roll, pop, jazz, Kat-jazz (fusion with Kathak)... Though flooded with film offers, Shiamak remains choosy to keep his creative energy flowing. "Choreography is where the movements and steps do the talking. So I like to do films where dances are an intrinsic part and not just glamorous add-ons."

Shiamak put his best foot forward first with musicial theatre ("Evita", "Grease"), then stage shows (one with Sting), albums ("Mohabbat Karle", "Dil Chahe") and advertisements (Coke, Nakshatra)... all these catapulted him to fame.

His dance school, with branches all over the country (he will open one shortly in Chennai) and in Canada, trains almost 10,000 students. This die-hard dancer also holds special classes for the differently-abled, senior citizens, children of commercial sex workers and street children.

To many, his life may seem like a fairy tale. "I have had my share of lows — parents' ill health... I was ridiculed for choosing dance as a career." Yet determined to dance his way to many a heart, he derives strength from the `other world'. "I am a believer since childhood. Though it may not sound cool, karma, rebirth, life after death... I swear by them all. Decision or confusion, I always look to my spiritual guru for guidance," admits Shiamak. Not surprisingly, this celebrity dancer has his feet firm on the ground.

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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