Shiamak Davar

“Dance is God’s language” ~ Shiamak Davar

A dancer, a choreographer, an entertainer and a dance educationist. These are only a few chosen words to describe how the world knows Shiamak Davar. Hailing from a family associated with film background, he was always exposed to the culture of singing and dancing, thus naturally leading him into the field of Bollywood. After many years of training and learning many different dance forms abroad, Shiamak came back to India to start his own dance academy, Shiamak Davar’s Institute for the Performing Arts (SDIPA) and in no time, was signed on as a choreographer for the biggest banner in Indian Cinema, Yash Raj Films. His astonishing talent and stylish choreography went on to become a buzz internationally and led him to winning the National Film Award for Best Choreography for Dil Toh Pagal Hai in 1998. Not only is he a gifted dancer and singer, he has also proved to be a wonderful human being. By setting up the Victory Arts Foundation (VAF), he believes and supports everyone into the field of dancing, regardless of age, gender, caste, ability and impairment. Read on to see how gets up close and personal with Roshni Magazine and speaks more about his life, works and aspirations.

Why dancing?
Since childhood I have been interested in Performing Arts. I used to sing and dance for my family...I was a legend in my living room.  As I was growing older, I found myself completely surrounded with Western and Indian culture. My sister is an avid follower of Indian Cinema and thanks to her I watched almost every Hindi movie released during that time. I also spent a lot of my time on the sets of movies with my grand uncle Homi Wadia and his wife Mary Wadia (Nadia Hunterwali) who were closely associated with Indian Cinema. At home, I was exposed to wide range of International music that my parents used to listen to, constantly. So performing arts was a natural choice. I could not have possibly chosen another field!

What was it that got you interested in dancing and where did you learn?
Like I said earlier, performing arts - singing, acting, dancing - is something that I have been pursuing from a very young age. As I grew older, my interest in these art forms grew too. I knew that I had found my calling and was sure that I wanted to take up a career in this field. I went to UK and trained at Pineapple Dance Studios and the Guildford School of Acting and Dance. Dance gave me a unique sense of satisfaction and I decided to spread this joy to as many people as I could. I returned to India and started my dance classes. To quench my unending thirst for knowledge, I undertook further training at Alvin Ailey American Dance Centre (USA), Broadway Dance Centre (USA), London Contemporary Dance Theatre (UK) and many more to ensure that my students back in India get to learn the very best.

What was your first time on stage like?
I made my debut as a stage performer with the musical Grease, playing the lead of Danny (made famous by John Travolta).  Unlike what I thought, I was not scared, nervous or inhibited.

Your first big break was ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’, after which there was no looking back. What did you learn from this experience?
Honestly, I was very skeptical before taking on Dil Toh Pagal Hai. It was Yash Uncle (Yash Chopra), Adi (Aditya Chopra), Shahrukh and Gauri Khan who convinced me to take up this project.

The style that I introduced through this movie was a first for Indian Cinema. My biggest learning, rather revelation with this film was that India had finally woken up to new styles of dance and was ready to embrace it with open arms.

What has been the highest moment of your career till date?
That is tough call. But if I really had to pick one then it would be winning the National Award for my first feature film choreography, Dil Toh Pagal Hai. The fact that my work was so well accepted really meant a lot to me.

You introduced a contemporary dance form called ‘Indo Jazz’. Tell us something about this dance form.
Shiamak’s Indo-Jazz Dance MovementTM is a combination of Indian dance forms with Jazz technique fused with my own personal style.

Where does the inspiration of your dance and choreography come from?
My inspiration of dance comes from the smallest of things. When I hear a good piece of music, or when I spend some quality time with my friends, family and students, a day spent with my VAF children.

From stage shows to theatre to TV to movies to music albums, what’s next?
Well, right now I am focusing only on my dance institute, Shiamak Davar’s Institute for the Performing Arts (SDIPA). Through dance, I wish to educate, entertain and empower as many people as I can.

Which do you most prefer: theatre, TV, movies, albums or stage shows?
I really can’t pick this one. I love doing everything!

If not a dancer/choreographer, what would you be?
An actor or a singer.

Where do you see yourself 10 years down the line?
I see myself doing the exact same thing that I am doing right now and have been doing for the past 25 years.

My work is my life and I can never look beyond it.

In 2004, you established the Victory Arts Foundation (VAF), which aims at teaching disabled and underprivileged children and young adults how to dance. It later went on to be incorporated into an ad for New York Life Insurance, becoming very popular. What inspired you to set up this foundation?
VAF is a fortification of my belief that Dance is for everyone. VAF is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the joy of dance to all - irrespective of age, gender, caste, ability or impairment.

VAF is committed to transforming lives through the power of dance and reaches out to children with special needs, those who are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and others from various underprivileged backgrounds. VAF takes my motto Have Feet. Will DanceTM, one step further to Have Spirit. Will TriumphTM.

We made a humble start in March 2004 but it gives me so much joy to see that VAF has spread its wings and now brings joy to over 5000 children in 70 centres across India. My children from VAF have performed at various national and global events and have always moved the audiences with their spirited performance.

Did this experience change you as a person?
Dealing with special children has truly changed my perspective towards life. It has been the most fulfilling experience for me.

My VAF children mean the most to me and I stand committed to go any length to empower them, through the medium of dance and other performing arts, with confidence and self-belief so that they are seamlessly integrated into society and stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world.

Who do you look up to most when it comes to making important decisions in life?
My constant support system, through out my life, have been my Spiritual Guides - The Bhavnagri’s. I look up to them for everything and owe all my success to them.

Who are your favorite celebrities to work with and why?
I really can’t pick any. Whoever I have worked or associated with, is my friend. It has truly been an enjoyable experience working with each one of them.

Are there any styles of dance you wish to learn more of?
I believe learning is a never-ending process for each one of us. Every day I strive to learn something new and immediately put into practice.

What do you strive to achieve through dance?
Dance, for me, is the amalgamation of the body, mind and spirit. It is the most honest expression of celebration and the perhaps the best way of expressing happiness. Dance is God’s language. Through dance, I just want to educate, entertain and empower as many people as I can.

So for me, whether it’s me dancing or someone else swaying to my beats, I have accomplished my mission.

Any last words to your fans or those aspiring to pursue a career in dancing or choreography?
The only piece of advice that I would like to give to everyone, irrespective of whether they are pursuing dance and choreography or not, is ‘Be yourself, no matter what they say!

~ Dimple Motwani
(September 2009)

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