In Mumbai, dancers shake a leg in the hope for a better future

Text and Video by Shiva Thorat,


A group of struggling dancers from difficult caste, social and economic backgrounds, struggling to make a life following their passion as dancers in a world that is not as glamorous or as problem-free as depicted by tv/bollywood. Dancers came to show their talent at “The Culture 2016” in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

“The Culture 2016” was organised in Phoenix Marketcity, Kurla by Spykar, a sports brand. One of the crew members, Sadanand More, said,”The mainstream society and their dance culture is seemingly ignoring the fact of urban poor talent. We are trying to showcase through the program that such groups in the hundreds of millions have not only created expanding empires, but thriving global industries with their feet”.

Dance and Mumbai have a very strong connection; it has its own character in the slums of Mumbai. All the depiction on dance starts from the slums, and anyone looking for underground dance talents knows this. Programs which have free entries have become popular attractions. Mohammad Hussain, a 24-year old from Surat, Gujarat came to “The Culture 2016” to pursue his dancing talent. He said, “Dancing is my whole life and something that gives me courage and I can only find that at Mumbai. This is the place where dance stalwarts like Prabhu Deva and Remo D’Souza have gained fame…I am also trying to give a turn to my life”.

What Mohammad Hussain says has quite a Bollywood-like flair to it, but that really is how he has gotten hope to become dancer. Bollywood movies like ‘Any Body Can Dance’ and “Any Body Can Dance 2” are said to be the representation of the dance culture in India. But are they? Hussain said, “These movies are not representative of actual Mumbai dance culture, but when people who only believe what Bollywood says will say that these movies are representative. Even not only movies but shows like Dance India Dance, Boogi Woogie, Jhalak Dikhla Ja, So You Think You Can Dance – Ab India Ki Baari and so many other shows are just an overdose of drama”.

Hussain is also working in a garment company as supervisor while pursuing a degree in Commerce. His dream is to become dance master.

Prasanna is a 20-year old who came from Nepal to try his luck in “locking and popping”, which is a hip hop dance form. “This event is one of the good dance platforms that people like me can use to show off their talents. TV shows and movies don’t really give us chances. Still, “The Culture” has its own bias sentiments”. He also said, “Only thing is here that I can meet lot of people like me who have not been given any chances, be it family, school or society.”

Women who come to The Culture 2016 say they are not able to find their own space because everything is male-dominated. Priya Jha told, “Even a miracle won’t see the men give us enough space. You can see all the movies, even in mainstream shows…women’s roles are secondary”.

One of the crews at the event, who is also a dancer and gives free dance classes in his area in Badlapur, Mumbai said, “I did not even take money from participants. I accepted them to just to cultivate their enthusiasm. I understand how demonetisation affected everyone and dancers especially are in a vulnerable position”.

After the program, contacted the participants on social media to know more about the event. Sameer Shinde is a 22-year old from Pune who works in a xerox shop in the city and lives in area called Tadiwala Road, an area that inhabits mostly Dalits, OBCs and migrants. He said, “Dance is sentiment when we as dancers goes to event like The Culture 2016, basically we want reaffirm our hope. For me The Culture 2016 is the only event.I do not give money to show my talents because I cannot afford, The Culture is an open platform people like me who cannot afford expensive platforms”.