THIS WEEK'S AMBASSADORS
THIS WEEK'S DANCE STORIES
I moved to Bangalore from UAE, to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. On my arrival, I joined dance classes and was obsessed with it, and I was forced to quit before my final exams so that I could concentrate on my education. I had no formal training and being born into a conservative family only meant emphasis on education more than anything else. One of my colleagues suggested that I audition for a dance reality show and I agreed. I knew that my parents wouldn’t be too happy about it, but I wanted to at least give it a try so that I didn’t have any regrets. I did qualify for the final round, which gave me sleepless nights because I had kept it hidden from my family. When I told my mother, she told me that my father would never be supportive of my decision and unfortunately, I had to travel alone to Mumbai on a flight ticket I could not have afforded without borrowing money.
I managed to win the dance show, but all the fame and glory was short-lived because I was out of work. Dejected, I approached my mentor from the show for help. He offered to take me under his wing and offered me a job as an assistant director for his upcoming movie. Being behind the camera was fun and it gave me the necessary exposure. I was soon offered a job as a choreographer for another dance show and despite my scepticism, I took it up. I knew that I had no formal training and competing among professionals was a different thing altogether. None the less, I agreed and was appreciated for my choreography skills.
After a few months, my mentor mentioned casting me in one of his movies, but I laughed it off because I thought that he was just joking. Little did I know that he was serious. I soon started working on it and the movie turned out to be a huge success. It opened the door to success for me and gave me the confidence to believe in myself. From a shy boy to an accomplished dancer and choreographer, my journey has truly been fulfilling. I hope that it continues.
I started dancing when I was 3 years old. I had gone to Germany to meet my cousins where I joined at the back of her dance class. The teacher told my mother that I had it in me to become a dancer. I don’t remember when I first decided to become a dancer, but I do know this for sure that a part of me always wanted it. A week into my dance classes, I suffered from a spinal bleed which left me paralysed from the chest down. My coaches were great and they asked me to join again and at least finish the theoretical part of my training. Soon they started insisting that I try solo choreography. After some hesitation, I finally gathered the courage and finished my training despite my handicap.
It was difficult improvising moves to suit me and I often doubted my ability to do it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue going to the university and I constantly struggled making finding the balance and believing in myself. I decided to take some time off and joined Stop Gap and I have been a part of it ever since. Dancers on wheelchairs face barriers like inaccessible theatres because most stages do not have ramps. It was difficult to make people understand that dancers from Stop Gap belonged to a full-fledged dance company and were not just a small group.
Michaela DePrince is a Sierra-American Ballet dancer and was born at the time of the Civil War of Sierra Leone in 1995. She was born in a Muslim family as Mabinty Bangura, but spent most of her life as an orphan because her Uncle left her at an orphanage after she lost her parents where her identity was reduced to a number. She was mistreated by the staff who saw her as the “devil’s child” because of her pigmented skin medically known as Vitiligo. They named the children after numbers from One to Twenty seven. One was the favourite child while Twenty Seven was given to those they did not like and Michaela was number Twenty Seven. The girls at the orphanage were encouraged not to play with her, but she found a friend and a confidante in another girl called Mabinty.
Michaela found a discarded magazine where she found a lady. In an interview by BBC World Service she said, “The lady was on her tippy- toes in this pink, beautiful tutu.” It was the kind of thing that she has never seen before and that’s when she decided that she wanted to be like her. Michaela began learning ballet at the age of five from the Rock School of Dance in Philadelphia. Even as a young child, she was conscious about the pigmentation and often covered her body in turtle necks and tights to hide it. Her African origin was another thing that stood in her way.