“Art and creativity inspires me”

rishi sharma, Chhau dancer, so you think you can dance season 1

It was Hrithik Roshan who fuelled his passion for dancing and made him famous a Chhau dancer who recently got eliminated from So You Think You Can Dance. Delhiite Rishi Sharma talks to Sangeeta Yadav

Meet 25-year-old Rishi Sharma, a budding Chhau dancer who has been learning dance since he was eight. It was Hrithik Roshan’s famous  dance number Ek pal ka jeena that inspired him.

“I used to dance a lot on that song and looking at my passion my parents enrolled me into Ashley Lobo’s The Danceworx Academy where I learnt Jazz and contemporary till 2009 and also performed in many annual functions in my school Laxman Public School, Delhi,” Sharma says. His mother made sure that he never loses interest.

His graduation days brought a big transformation in his life. “I got through Sri Venkateshwara College through the cultural activity quota and my first achievement came when I won the title of DT Fresh Face 2009. I also trained in playing drums from the Parikrama School of Music and topped the exam in Delhi conducted by Trinity College London,” he says.

Soon Sharma was introduced to the world of Mayurbhanj Chhau and became a disciple of Santosh Nair of Sadhya — a unit of performing arts. “In college, every student has to choose a professional choreographer for outside and we thought of Tushar Kalia, renowned choreograph from Sadhya. He has choreographed for Dharma Productions and is a creative head of India’s Got Talent and Jhalak Dikhhlaa Jaa. He  introduced me to Mayurbhanj Chhau and I met my guru Santosh Nair of Sadhya from whom I got professionally training in this form,” Sharma recalls.

Talking about the dance form, Sharma says: “Chhau is traditional and stylised martial arts dance form from Orissa wherein they imitate warriors.  There are three types of Chhau — Seraikella Chhau from Jharkhand, Purulia Chhau from West Bengal and Mayurbhanj Chhau from Odisha.  Mayurbhanj Chhau has three moods —Hatiaardhara (holding of weapons), Kalibhanga (bending of a bud) and Kalikaata (cutting the tender sprig).”

Soon after graduation in 2012, Sharma joined Sadhya Company as a disciple of Nair and worked towards his dream to take this dance form to the international level. “You need flair of being an experienced performer and choreographer which I learnt from Santosh sir. He used to say that I can’t teach you dance but I can make you a dancer. Whatever movement that you create, would be your own and that’s how your personality gets reflected. That’s the ideology that I strongly believe in. I got my first international show in Canada and went on to do many others in Malaysia, Algeria and Tanzania,” Sharma says.

It’s the art and creativity and not any particular person that inspires him the most. While understanding the art of Chhau, Sharma came across Uday Shankar’s creative work. “A pioneer in modern dancing in India Uday Shankar, Pt Ravi Shankar’s elder brother, is a jewel. Santosh sir came out with a book and a fellowship in tribute to Shankar which talks about how to create and be different from others and to work on individual personality. Dancing is all about how movement is created from what you are feeling,” Sharma says.

Uday Shankar did a lot of work in propagating the dance form by working with personalities from the entertainment industry. He feels proud to be connected to the chain of great legacy. “Uday Shankar created a lot of people like Zohra Sehgal, Prabhat Ganguly, Narendra Sharma, Guru Dutt etc. Narendra Sharma came to Delhi and started Sadhya and mentored Uday Shankar. Narendra Sharma’s son Bharat discovered the first dance movie titled Kalpana directed by Shankar and his troupe which never saw the light of day. Kalpana is now available on YouTube. I got inspired from the way the movie is made and its creative impressions,” he says.

When the opportunity for So You Think You Can Dance came up, Rishi got through the top 12. “I was close to top 10 and the competition was tough. I got eliminated because there were lifts that didn’t happen properly and I couldn’t get much votes that week. But I got to learn hip hop and had enough exposure through this show. I easily got a job in Mumbai after the show,” Sharma says.

Rishi’s major concern is the stereotyping of the dance profession. “In India, people love watching dance but not many think of making a career in it. In acting, we have National School of Drama but there is no National School of Dance where all forms of dance are taught under one roof. Indian dancers are not versatile. They aren’t thinking as much about excellence and creating out-of-the box sequences as they are about their survival in the industry. There are only a few Chhau dancers in India and people have never heard of them. That despite the immense potential the Indian audience has. Culturally, we are so rich and have so many dance forms which people abroad wait in long queues to watch. As Indians, we need to understand and appreciate our own art,” Rishi say.

(The article got published in Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/art-and-creativity-inspires-me.html)

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