CHENNAI: It was only a few months ago that the song Nattu Nattu and its dance steps had everyone going ga-ga. Now, dancers from Chennai picked up the same song, set choreography and brought home trophies. Students of Spin Dance Studio bagged several awards at the 25th Asia Pacific Dance Competition held in Malaysia in August.
The studio has been representing India for several years now. In the 25th edition of the competition, they participated in Under 15 Hip Hop (Ensemble), Under 17 — National Dance (Ensemble), Jazz and solo Ballet, and open age for Hip Hop, National Dance (Troupe), and Ballet (Troupe). Of these, Namma Chennai dancers won an honourable mention for their Ballet and Hip Hop (open age), a gold in solo ballet (open age), second in Under 15 Hip Hop, and third place in Under 17 National Dance.
Back from an enriching and exciting experience, the dancers and their choreographer talk to CE.
Dancing their hearts out The practice sessions began in April where the participants focussed on strengthening, stretching, stamina building and cardio workouts for a month. Then in June, the dance rehearsals began. From choosing songs and setting formation to costume fits, make-up and hairdo, and appropriate dance shoes — everything was planned.
Balaji was the choreographer who trained the participants, most of whom are schoolchildren. The students spent two hours every day learning the moves. Balaji says, “The first thing that I want is for the students to explore different dance forms and for them to know that dance is more than what we see on television nowadays — Freestyle and Hip Hop. I want my kids to watch it live, how it is done around the world and I want them to participate and be a part of that. I am very happy and proud of them.”
As there were multiple entries by individual participants, they practised 10 different choreography each day. “Learning the choreography and practising it over and over, the steps were etched in our memories. When we went on stage, none of us was thinking of the steps and when the music started playing, our bodies automatically started moving,” says Mia Abrahim, one of the participants who won an honourable mention in Ballet.
The event had around 1,000 participants from 10 countries. Among them, Tom Abraham won the Hip Hop open-age category. He says, “Participating itself is a big thing. The feeling of going on stage and showing our talent is amazing. At the same time, it is our (Spin) dream not to come out without a trophy and aim to achieve a spot one among the top 3.”
Learning and unlearning
At the international competition, the participants met and learned from performers from other countries. For Mia, it was the discipline that inspired her. “They are extremely focused and everything they do is on time,” she says. Meanwhile, Tom noticed that Indians support Indians wherever they are. “Unlike people from other countries, we cheer our people. No matter where Indians are, they support Indians,” he says, as others add that all the performers supported each other irrespective of their schedules, helping with dance steps and snacks.
While the appreciation flows in, there is still a hurdle to cross—popularising Western dance styles in our country. “As Indians, our parents want us to excel both at academics and at dance, but, in other countries, they give preference to art first. They practise for six hours, almost school time, but in India, they don’t promote art at the school level. We need to start training ourselves and once we get a chance to show our talent, we can be perfect or at least better than people from other countries,” shares Tom.
The participants got a grand welcome at the studio, which Mia calls “a space where we could come dance and have fun.” The team huddled and remembered the days spent practising and performing on stage. With hopes and dreams for their future, the overwhelmed team switched on the music and stepped up to dance with joy, before they went for their next competition.