In India, we have our own classical dances and each dance has its stalwarts, pioneers, and teachers. But when it comes to western classical dance Ballet, there are not too many who are teaching it and performing it. But In Mumbai, there is one dynamic lady who since 1966 has been on her point and has been spreading the grace and beauty of Ballet through her classes at ‘The School of Classical Ballet and Western Dance’. I want you all to meet the ever so elegant, petite and soft-spoken, the legendary Tushna Dallas.
I have known Ms Dallas’ daughter Khushcheher for many years now and always had the desire to meet the legend and recently at a show when I spotted her sitting in a corner admiring all her dancers, I, like a star-struck dancer ran up to her to introduce myself. Her warmth and poise captivated me and with a twinkle in my eyes I sat down to talk to the lady who Shaimak Davar, Terrence Lewis, Parizaad Zorabian, and every western dancer in the country looks up to.
You introduced Ballet culture into India in 1966, What progress have you seen since then?
Yes, I commenced my teaching in Mumbai with 4 students. I set out to teach many form of Dance, but later became more single-minded towards Ballet but continued to include limbering and European folk dances. In 1980, I pioneered the 1st Ballet exams of the Royal Academy of Dance (London) with just 18 students. My teacher Patricia Hutchinson, who was Vice Principal of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing London College, from where I studied and graduated, later became Principal of the RAD (London) college. She spoke to the RAD to send an examiner to India, which at the time was unheard of, with her support, I took courage and pioneered the 1st set of RAD exams.
What is the school like now?
Today, my daughter Khushcheher (we call her Khooshoo) runs the school. We have and continued to maintain a high standard of work throughout the years. We usually end up with 300 entries for the exam. In 1998, Khooshoo introduced Modern Theatre exams of the ISTD (London) and later introduced Latin American exams in 2006 of the ISTD as well. The strength of our school is giving the students a strong technical foundation which culminates in their achievement in their exams as well as their technique. This helps in motivating the children towards their goals.
Top Western Dancers of India regard you as the epitome of dance, how do you feel?
I want to thank everyone for all the love, I would say I sowed seeds, and the sprouting of those seeds are very rewarding.
Contemporary dance has its root of Ballet techniques – but is gaining more popularity world over compared to Ballet, Why?
Dance reflects the era and the time perceived in all arts, music, paintings etc. Today’s life is more free, dancers, choreographers want to express more freely their feelings and ideas. They want to move out of the structured Ballet mould. Contemporary is also that much easier and looks fabulous when you have the Ballet technique. People want to dance quickly today. Ballet today contributes to each dance form and so is viewed more as a compulsory dance form aimed at improving other dance forms, but is not directed towards the ballet for its own sake. It is a passport to enhance the technique of other styles. It still exists of course in the professional Ballet companies worldwide. Thank God!
In India, Ballet has not reached its full potential Please comment!
Yes, I agree! Firstly we are so rich in our own culture of music and dance with so many different styles that exposure of Ballet has always been limited. Ballet is a skilful performing art. It requires a home, a centre where students are selected with the right anatomical bodies, to survive the demanding technique of ballet training. After the training, to make Ballet a career it needs survival for the dancers as well as a platform to dance in a Ballet company. Unfortunately, the lack of opportunity to perform is a deterrent and given the fast-paced life today, most of the students don’t have the time to devote to a training like Ballet.
On TV today, Ballet has not got its spotlight yet! Where do you think the improvement is needed?
Ballet is not for the entertainment of the masses. The country as a whole is still naive about the art. It is an acquired art form and only when you are educated in this art form which is internalisation not form, you can appreciate Ballet for its hidden strength and beauty which comes across visually with effortless ease. Ballet needs an exclusive infrastructure which is still not available even in the biggest art centres of our city.
Your advice to dancer ones who wish to pursue Ballet?
Ballet requires years of dedication and hard work, only those who are passionate about this art should pursue it. Ballet gives the audience a special joy and can be heart-stirring at its best. Ballet is demanding, with high standards, it is not for the faint-hearted.
We concluded our talk when she said, ‘The challenges today are that Ballet needs an infrastructure, a home, studio space and most importantly, funding to enable it to grow as an art form, which takes years of daily training. Parents and pupils today do not view the training seriously as there is no goal at the end of the day to dance or make a career’.
By Sandip Soparrkar
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of AFTERNOON VOICE and AFTERNOON VOICE does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)