CHENNAI: Surrounded by trees and the sound of birds, shoes stomp the walkway in unison. The team of dancers twirl and move to the tune of music in Natesan Park, T Nagar. This was the scenario for the Organisation of Powerful Music (OPM), a Chennai-based dance company.
“It started with four of us leaving another dance company to start our crew. We started by practising in Natesan Park because we did not have space.We would dance until the park closed at 9 pm,” said Shyam Prabhu Christopher, the team leader.
The 28-year-old started the dance company in 2009, and the four-member crew eventually grew to 23 members from the ages 20 to 30. Their members are from Chennai, Bengaluru and Madurai. They specialise in urban dances, which uses dance as a means of story-telling. It was in 2013 when they opened their dance studio in Saidapet above a crew member’s house in a residential area.
“A lot of our teammates come from difficult backgrounds. Many do not get support from their families because they have taken up dance professionally. I have been homeless and lived in the dance studio in 2017,” said Christopher. It was later in 2017 when they auditioned for World of Dance, an American television series. They came up as the runners-up from the India qualifiers but were unable to go for the finals held in the United States due to the lack of sponsorship.
“We were disappointed, but I told my team that the next year, we would make it and win the World of Dance. Many of us have seen videos from the show and learned steps from it. In 2018, we won the India qualifiers,” said Christopher. They received `24 lakh from the chief minister of Tamil Nadu Edappadi K Palaniswami, and around `3 lakh from other individual donors. Unfortunately, due to visa issues, they were unable to go that year.
“I remember we had our bags packed and everything. I was adjusting the choreography up till the very last minute, and the team was trying their best to learn and execute it perfectly. We told the chief minister of Tamil Nadu personally about this, and he told us not to lose hope. We also told one of our sponsors, Raghava Lawrence, and he said that he will continue to support us because there was nobody to support him when he started. That brought tears to my eyes,” said Christopher. They received massive support from the Chennai dancing community, which also motivated them.
While the team will not be participating in the World of Dance auditions this year due to prior commitments, Christopher explained that the stage is something all dancers should aspire for. “We danced in the park for many months hoping for a stage like World of Dance. To perform in front of a huge crowd that loves dance and supports you, and then to eventually represent India in the main stage, sounds incredible. If the Indian team goes and wins this year, I don’t know — I’d probably start crying from joy,” he said.To register for the auditions for World of Dance, visit www.worldofdance.com/events/upcoming/regionals, or call 8939475801. Registrations are open till July 23.