Terence Lewis is one of the faces that made me sit up and start making attention to dance in India. An enthusiastic dancer myself, I felt there was not enough exposure to dance in India and specifically, on television and the big screen. When Terence Lewis came on board as a judge on what led to become one of the biggest dance shows in India, the tides began to change. Here’s my chat with Terence about dance, the evolution of it, and where it stands today.
We have come a long way in the past decade or so, from the inception of the popular “Dance India Dance”. We are seeing dancers gaining popularity and attaining heights of achievement that we did not see much before. What do you attribute it to?
The cance scenario in India has changed drastically! When I started my career, dance was something which was looked down upon. However, with Dance India Dance bringing in a revolution, it has definitely expanded the avenues in many ways. It's no longer solely a platform to showcase talent... one is also exposed to a lot of recognition as well as opportunities during and post the show.
Being a dance ambassador, I personally pushed the envelope to educate the masses who are watching about what great dancing is and how to spot great talent by pointing out the finer details of each performance, in order to help them understand the art form and the talent that the contestant has. Additionally, the advent of internet has bought in awareness through the exchange of ideas, possibilities, and creativity. A lot of things have taken young dancers by storm and aided the progression of their own artistic pursuance.
You have your own dance company, and that has been established for quite some years now. What led you to the path of having your own dance company?
I laid the foundation of my institute in 1998 along with Marukh Dumasia who is the Creative Head and Chief Choreographer of TLCDC (Terence Lewis Contemporary Dance Company) and the Program Head of TLPTI (Terence Lewis Professional Training Institute). It is a leading part of my journey as it really gave a purpose to my life! Before that it was just work and money, but when I decided to give something to the dancers in the country I make sure they not only receive formal education in dance but also get jobs!
With regards to courses, we provide an integrated dance education system with training in classical, contemporary and commercial dance. There is an array of courses for different age groups who want to pursue or take up dance as a career option. Our focus and vision is to empower professionals only, hence we just have one institute which is in Mumbai and we don’t have or intend to start any franchises.
When did you start dancing and who inspired you to pursue dance as a profession, in a time and age when we did not have reality television and only a few household names were recognized as choreographers?
Dance happened to be an accident than a premeditated choice! I am the youngest among eight siblings! So as a kid, who seeks attention and validation, I always wanted to stand out by doing things others don’t do and wanted to be different! Once, while in my first standard in school, a teacher was looking for participants for the dance competition and nobody raised their hand, so I took a leap of faith and pencilled my name in! To my good luck, I won! The adrenaline rush that came with applause, got me so hooked that thereafter, I took any opportunity to be on stage, to be under the spotlight! I participated in singing, theatre, debates, elocution, math quizzes, track and field, sports and started competing in whatever contests that came my way! Winning some, losing some kept me in high spirits and being academically bright with straight A’s throughout school and college, I felt invincible! Given that I was in an all-boys school and those days boys rarely danced, I felt it was my way of getting noticed and feeling special about myself! Dance and theatre became my second language and the stage was my home!
There wasn’t much happening in India back then. There were no dance classes or reality shows during the 80’s and early 90’s! However I do remember seeing Bob Fosse’s Broadway musicals on VHS, and when I saw Jerome Robbins' West Side Story, I was blown! While researching about Fosse’s work, I came across Jack Cole and Luigi who were masters in their era! There was no Internet back then, so I learnt all this through books and eavesdropping on conversations with people who had travelled abroad for dance or just mingling with folks at Prithvi theatre and the NCPA. Interestingly, while studying Micro-Biology and Biochemistry at St Xavier’s College [Mumbai], I used to walk down to Churchgate station to get my train ride back home. On my way to the station, I used to see random, used books and magazines scattered on the footpath and my eye would gravitate towards any book on dance! I used to save up money to buy these books and would read them cover to cover. I grew up in the era of pop culture and I looked up to Michael and Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul and back home I tripped on Govinda, Jeetendra and Mithunda! I was so hungry to know and learn in an era without Google or the internet. Unlike today, you didn’t have the world’s best at your fingertips!
Today, when you look back, as a mentor, what has been your proudest moment?
As a mentor it’s always satisfying to see my students achieve all things they have strived for! I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I see them grow by leaps and bounds in art, dance.
Most of the dancing community and fans, associate you with Remo D'Souza and Geeta Kapur. What kind of relationship do you share with the two?
They are definitely people I adore the most! We started our journeys together, there is so much we share together! Remo D’Souza is my Soul Brother, Geeta Kapur is one of the stupendo fantabulously fantastic persons I know!
So, what does dance mean to you?
Dance means many things to me and in different phases of my life it has meant different things! When I was young, it was a way to find my identity, it gave me a certain identity both in school and college, people knew me as a dancing kid. Later when I became older, at 20- 21, it became a way of offering financial stability. Much later when I was financially secure, dance was no longer just for money or for passion, it was a service, for me to be able to give back to the community, the joys that I had received. Dance became to me a way of giving back that I have received truly and in that I have fulfilled myself. I am now in a position where people respect me for my dance and I can influence people to come and dance! Dance is such a beautiful aspect of life which no human being should miss.