The Gurus of Dance

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We’re in the presence of Saroj Khan and Sandip Soparrkar who are in Dubai to judge the ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa UAE dance extravaganza’ hosted by Colors - Middle East. Twenty fabulous dancers from the region will battle it out in front of Saroj ji and Sandip and the lucky winner will get the opportunity to fly to Mumbai and dance in front of the diva of dance – Madhuri Dixit! Saroj ji and Sandip, two world class choreographers, require no introduction at all. Saroj Khan is an embodiment of ‘nazaakat’ and ‘adaayein’ and her inimitable style and graceful steps have added that extra sparkle to Madhuri’s dance. Don’t be misguided by her demeanor…she might look small and adorably cute but when it comes to dance she is fair yet extremely strict! Sandip Soparrkar is the tall and strikingly good looking choreographer who has taken Ballroom and Latin styles of dance to new heights in India. This regally graceful gentleman has choreographed celebrities such as Madonna, Britney Spears and Hrithik! Saroj ji and Sandip might be as different as chalk and cheese yet they share one common passion – dance! Minutes before the big competition, the renowned gurus ‘Gupshup’ with us about…dance!



The significance of dance…

Saroj Khan: In the language of dance, we have four art forms. There is singing, music, painting / sculpture and then there is dance. I believe that dance is the most supreme form because it embodies all the above art forms. When you dance you can feel the rhythm, feel the music, express, emote and your body can literally become a sculpture or a painting. So dance is the highest form of art.

Sandip: For me, dance is a form of personal expression. I truly believe that you don’t even need music to dance because it resides in our heartbeat. For example, there was a time when I was teaching dance to people who are deaf and mute and that, was an eye opening experience for me. We had no music and yet my students picked up everything I taught them and danced beautifully. So dance equates to how you feel, it is an emotion and it can be expressed through your eyes, hands, feet and body.



Anybody can dance…?

Saroj Khan: As long as you have a heartbeat, you can be a dancer but you have to be truthful to yourself and to the art! I don’t think that anybody has the right to judge whether a person is a good dancer or not. If you feel you can dance then stand in front of a mirror and assess yourself. You may feel that certain steps suit you on the other hand certain steps might look ridiculous on you. So be honest with yourself. As a choreographer, I don’t have a test to see if my student can dance. I like to give all my students a fair chance to learn.

Sandip: I think everyone can dance. Some are born with the talent and some have to work really hard to reach a certain level. It is important to be willing to learn and rehearse. Now days, people come to our dance school and they want to take a two day crash course. That is rubbish. You cannot become a fabulous dancer in two days. Just like any other art, dance requires patience and lots of hard work. Even the best dancers spend hours and hours rehearsing.



In dance reality shows it is not good enough to be great at one dance style…is that fair?

Saroj Khan: I don’t think that is fair but we have created this monster. Look at all the dance reality shows today – DID, Jhalak and so on…unless the dancer does not get on a trapeze and perform acrobatics, the judges will not give good comments! So it is our fault and we should have stopped this nonsense right in the beginning. I want to see dance and if I wanted to see acrobatics then I would have gone to the circus! All the judges on these dance reality shows start pampering the dancers and giving them full marks for jumps and lifts! It is ridiculous because everyone does not have the same amount of flexibility yet the contestants are forced to climb on ropes and do aerial acts to qualify for the next round. Children watch these shows and they start believing that dance equates to gymnastics. This is not a good trend. Show me one dance act where the woman has facial expressions that go with the lyrics?

Sandip:  I completely agree with Saroj ji. A dancer must dance…as simple as that. You don’t need to know every style to be a good dancer. A dancer should be able to use his / her hands, feet, body and face to express emotions.



Talent today compared to the talent of yesteryear…

Saroj Khan: “Talent pehle bahut accha thaa.” Back in the day, even the teachers used to work really hard to teach their students. Each step, each expression and each movement would be broken down really well. “Aaj ke zamaane mein, every dancer is taught four basic steps and that is it! Blank face and repetitive moves.



The use of props in dance…a necessary evil?

Saroj Khan: At the end of the day, we look at the dance not the props. So if you have to use a prop make sure that it enhances your dance. The prop should not become a hindrance in your dance.

Sandip: When I watch dance reality shows today, I really wonder what is happening because I see minimalistic dancing. The hosts announce ‘Salsa’ or ‘Ballroom’, the dancers come up on stage wearing a Ball gown or a short sexy skirt and then there are lifts and throws and drops and what not, but there is no Ballroom and there is no Salsa! Each dance form has a certain authenticity. Salsa has certain steps and movements, Waltz has a certain framework but you just don’t see that! Wearing a ball gown does not equate to performing Ballroom so don’t just wear the clothes or hold a prop and go on a completely different tangent. I find that very disappointing.



Is dance crucial to become a star in Bollywood?

Saroj Khan: Yes! I believe dance is an important facet of becoming a star in Bollywood. You have to understand that dance is a part of us. When a child is born – people dance, festivals – peoples dance, weddings – people dance and even when someone dies Rudaalis come to dance. People praise Madhuri for her dance and she has become a degree in our industry. Girls want to dance like her so if someone says that you dance like Madhuri…that is a huge compliment.



In your opinion, who is second to Madhuri?

Saroj Khan: Katrina and Kareena are good dancers. I have given Rs 501 to Sonakshi because she danced very well. Hrithik is a fantastic dancer and Ranbir is really good too. The only problem with Ranbir is that his movements are too fast. So when he dances you don’t know whether to focus on his feet, his hands or his expressions! I loved working with Kareena in ‘Dil Mera Muft Ka’ from Agent Vinod. She was so eager to learn each and every step and movement.



A dancer who has needed a lot of work…

Saroj Khan: All my dancers have been good. I am yet to meet an actor or actress who has required a lot of work. Maybe they are intimidated by me, so they come prepared…

Sandip: I worked with Manoj Bajpai once and he was a bit of a challenge…



Tinsel Gupshup would like to congratulate Colors Middle East for hosting a fantastic evening filled with exquisite performances. This was an incredible initiative that provided gifted dancers from the UAE an opportunity to showcase their talent in front of the highly esteemed dance gurus – Saroj Khan and Sandip Soparrkar. A huge round of applause to Colors ME, all the contestants and the winner of the Dance Extravaganza – Laxmi Panicker!!


Photo credit: Tinsel Gupshup

©Tinsel Gupshup


Jun 26, 2013
Love the article. Saroj-ji is always so straightforward! So agree with them that the dance shows seem to focus on anything but! And her statement on lack of expressions is spot on!

Jun 26, 2013
Love Saroj Khan's style. Don't know much about Sandeep. Great interview as always, A!

Jun 26, 2013
very nice interview. totally agree with saroj khan on her views of current reality shows. It is getting so boring with same lifts,jumps etc.

Aparna Thiyam
Jun 25, 2013
wow what more cld we asked for, not only one but two dance legends, love both of them,thank u Tinsel for bringing them together n sharing their thoughts on dance which is I love it n my fav.XOXOX:)

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