‘Dance guru’ Davar Shiamak cranks up the voltage at the Times of India Film Awards

Posted: April 11, 2013 in Shiamak in Media, Shiamak News
Tags: , , , , ,

 For- Vancouver Sun

Expect high-energy at musical extravaganza, says Bollywood choreographer

By Deborah Meyers, Special to The Sun April 2, 2013

  ‘Dance guru’ Davar Shiamak cranks up the voltage at the Times of India Film Awards

New Bollywood marries classical styles like Bharata Natyam and Kathak, or folk dances like Bhangra with western genres like contemporary, jazz and hip hop.

When the lights go down and the music starts at the inaugural Times of India Film Awards in Vancouver on Saturday, the place will be crammed with Bollywood celebrities. But don’t expect the proceedings to begin with a monologue. This may be the Academy Awards of Bollywood cinema, but the film industry it celebrates is all about song, and especially dance. Both the awards ceremony, and the musical extravaganza that precedes it tonight, will be defined by large-scale production numbers devised by Shiamak Davar, an A-list Bollywood choreographer who divides his time between Mumbai and Vancouver.

“TOIFA is an extension of the cultural exchange that has been taking place between Canada and India for years now,” says Davar, reached in Mumbai where he is putting the finishing touches on elaborate dance acts that will erupt on both stages. Participating B.C. dancers — many of them members of the Shiamak Davar Dance Team, the professional wing of his North Vancouver dance school affiliated with a string of international Shiamak style dance schools, including centres in Victoria and Toronto — are concurrently in rehearsal in Vancouver.

Davar, who serves as both director of choreography and design for the Vancouver events (and will perform himself in a single number on each evening), is widely credited with re-positioning Bollywood dance for an international market.

“When I started off 20 years ago,” he said, “Bollywood dance did not have a structure. The first movie I choreographed went on to win a national award, and introduced jazz technique to Bollywood. It was a first for Indian cinema to have properly choreographed pieces with dancers who were trained and had fit bodies. This movie — Dil Toh Pagal Hai — is considering a turning point for dance in Bollywood movies.”

A marker of his success is the fact that the term Bollywood now refers to a dance style, as well as to the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai. One of the largest centres of film production in the world, Indian popular cinema has multiple roots in the culture: ancient epics and Sanskrit dramas, traditional folk theatre, and especially Parsi theatre, with its melodramatic plot lines and use of elaborate stagecraft to conjure a unique brew of realism and fantasy. Hollywood musicals and Western musical television, especially MTV, with its focus on pace, camera angles and octane-fuelled dance sequences, have also shaped the form.

The influence goes both ways. Australian director Baz Luhrman (son of a ballroom dance teacher) has said that his 2001 film Moulin Rouge was directly inspired by Bollywood musicals. That film led to a revival of the Western musical film genre with movies like Chicago, Dream Girls and Mamma Mia!

If old Bollywood dance was modelled on classical styles like Bharata Natyam and Kathak, or folk dances like Bhangra, the new Bollywood marries those older forms with western genres like contemporary, jazz and hip hop. The structure is usually a hero or heroine with a troupe of backup dancers, supported by frequently shifting staging and costumes that are almost baroque in their embellishments.

The old and the new meet in defining themes: star-crossed lovers, dramatic reversals of fortune, kind-hearted courtesans. Florid to some, timeless to others, it depends how you look at it. “It’s about interpreting the emotion of a particular scene through dance movements,” says Davar.

The choreographer, known as a “dance guru” in India for his work on television reality shows like Dance Ke Superstars (Superstars of Dance), Jhala Dikhla Ja (Dancing with the Stars), Dance Premier League and India’s Got Talent, is no stranger to large-scale undertakings. He has directed, designed and performed at events like the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games (Melbourne 2006 and Delhi 2010) and The World Economic Forum Davos (2006), and was the designer and choreographer for the Indian International Film Academy Awards for ten consecutive years (2002 to 2011.)

But the first Times of India Film Awards is special to him, uniting two cities to which he has deep connections.

“It’s like inviting my friends and family from India to beautiful Vancouver”, he says. What do Western audiences need to know to understand Bollywood dance? Not a thing, according to Davar. “Just feel the music and dance,” he says. “The audience will be in for a lot of high energy and high voltage performances.”

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