Zubeidaa to Kites, DID to Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, the choreographer to glamourize Ballroom Dance in India - Know the story of Sandip Soparrkar
Ajay Kumar Soparrkar
6 th October 1964
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Proudly says ‘imd1’ for
Dancer & Choreographer - Dance
We are really keen to know, how did your journey begin?
I was very young when I first started dancing. It was in and around the ballroom - my happy place. Back then in those initial days, it was just a leisure pursuit but, gradually it became the reason for my happiness. I started believing more in my abilities as it made me more and more blissful and contented in life. Consequently, I started taking part in competitions and championships. As far as I remember, it was 18 years ago, when I came to Mumbai for a holiday. It was called Bombay, then. I was actually on a break from dancing and planned to relax with my family. To my surprise, Shyam Benegal approached me and asked me to choreograph in his film Zubeidaa. That"s when my professional dance career and a journey of taking the ballroom seriously kick-started. Destiny always plays its card right. I got this opportunity totally by chance. I took it as a gesture of kindness too. Getting acclaimed for it was a cherry on top of the cake. Everyone quickly became fond of my work and I was still in shock recollecting what events occurred in my life in surprise.
What’s your success mantra?
Honestly, I don"t have a success mantra but, I do believe in a few ideals. Whatever I do, I know I have to accept it. Admitting that it is mine is extremely crucial. Whether it is good or bad, mistakes are a very normal part of our lives. While they are essential for learning a lesson, they first need to be realized and admitted. We can"t afford being rude to anything. If God has given us a few advantages, we need to respect them and not take them for granted. They might be snatched from us the next day. All we need to be is humble and have sufficient humility. This is the only way to make things turn in our favor.
Quote for Life
‘Never Give up’ and ‘Never Stop Dancing’
Tao Porchon-Lynch from America
Food I Love
Pizza and Chocolates
Food I Hate
Fried food and spicy food
Had I not been a Dancer & Choreographer then…
Like Vacations at
Any beach place like Hawaii, or Romantic spots like Paris
Favorite Pass time
Favorite Movies / Series
What were the hardships / hurdles you encountered and the way you overcame in your journey?
Well, I did encounter countless hardships in the beginning. When I first opened my classes to make people learn dance, people were very skeptical about the entire idea of dance. They didn"t want to dance with strangers. They didn"t want to hold a stranger"s hand. I tried explaining them that ballroom dance is a duet style of dance. It is about a couple. It is about two people exploring the art form together in a partnership. They complained to me and asked me not to make them dance in pairs. "I don"t know this person. How do you expect me to hold his hand," hearing this statement was an everyday thing for me. To make people understand the real essence of dance, I told them that it was all about the zest and the energy it carries in itself. Such pep talks helped people to be more encouraged to learn dance in my classes. They did have a revolved perception after the end of my sessions. But, tables have turned now. It"s been 18 years to that conservative scenario. Salsa parties are a thing now! People willingly hold hands now and undeniably, experience the bliss while dancing. Now, so many classes have opened up. Not just in Delhi and Mumbai but, also in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. I am honestly, amazed at the development. I feel proud to mention that 99% of people who have opened dance classes to teach the ballroom dance are my ex-students. I feel I have a role in upgrading the masses and changing things for social good.
Success is incomplete without its share of failures. How should one overcome them to move on?
There have been many moments when I felt amidst a storm of failure. It felt as if the storm will engulf me and my name will be forgotten. The times when I was removed from a film, the times I was accused of spreading inappropriate content for the public, the times when classical and folk dancers recognized me as someone who propagates obscenity and vulgarity - never thought I would overcome from these hard times. Even when I received my first National Award by the Government of India, I was told it will be taken back from me because a certain classical dancer had complained that a western dancer to spreads the western culture can"t be given the award. There were many people who tried to pull me down and defame me but, I knew I had to stick by my ethics. I told the Government that if they were doubtful about giving me the award, they can take it back from me. That was the only way to deal with it. I could never settle with such allegations but, fighting with conservative perceptions was clearly against my beliefs.
Do you think Dancing and its learnings can be helpful in life even if one does not want to consider it as a career goal?
Well, dance changes a person"s entire way of living. It reforms an individual"s personality, instills confidence within him/her, adds discipline by making him/her follow a routine and even benefits the mental state of battling with the world by adding value to their conscious. Apart from a great posture, it also has a lot of health benefits. Being a visual form of art, dance has the ability to take you away from existential crisis. It has the ability to make the society recognize you once you showcase your talent. I strongly believe, everyone must know at least one form of art, not necessarily dance but, anything that enlarges his/her creative mind space. Art enriches the soul and is indirectly the best tool for mental satisfaction.
Who has been your influencer in this journey & how?
A 99-year-old lady, who is probably the oldest dancer I know, Tao Porchon-Lynch is not only the greatest influencer in my life but, also the biggest source of inspiration to me. She lives in America. I have consciously followed her endeavors since my college days. A few years ago, I remember, I had the honor to perform with her. She was 94, then. Honestly, I felt scared not because of any sort of nervousness but, about the fear "what if something happened to her." My heart skipped a beat when she tripped a little on the side. Imagine, a 94-year-old lady falling. Scary, right? And that too falling on the stage clearly isn"t the view you"d want to experience. So, I went to her to confirm if she was okay. Her expression was priceless. She gestured me to continue dancing. The show must go on as we danced together. From her zeal to her gracefulness, everything is worth adoring. I just couldn"t imagine this level of enthusiasm from a 94-year-old in my most progressive vision. And here I was, taking a bite of the reality! On the day of our performance, I got a lovely picture of ours clicked. Next day, at the breakfast table, I showed her the picture and yet again, her reply was priceless. "This was yesterday. Forget yesterday. Tell me what your plans are today!" I mean, most of us recall our best times and keep pondering over our past. However, concentrating on the present and making it better is rather crucial. Isn"t she an inspiration with all her spirit and zest!
Which was “that” moment when you consider yourself as “I Am The 1”?
The proudest and ‘I Am The 1’ moment of my life was that walk from the court of law back to my home with my son"s hand in my hand after I had successfully adopted him. That legal battle was the hardest time of my life. Being a single parent after all the court cases and struggles and being able to adopt a child was a sign of pure bliss. I am more than just happy to be with him!
Did you get any formal training and how was that journey?
I have trained in Germany because my dance form originated from there. But, before that, I have to give credit to the Army Ballroom Parties. My father was in the army and before such parties, we had trainings for the ballroom dance. I was taught by many teachers but, one that I clearly remember is Ewa Maria. Later, I pursued some training courses in ballroom dance. My first official dance teacher Ewa, she is a polish lady and she taught me all the German dance skills.
Could you reflect on the importance of systematic training in Dancing?
If it is about, it is all about the link that an individual can maintain. Dance every day, rehearse every day! The parents will send their child to a good school even though it is far from home. But, if the child wishes to learn dance, they"ll get him enrolled in the nearest dance class, however, average it be. Thus, this attitude needs to change. As a person, if you love dancing, you will have to take stand for it and learn in a good dance school. Understanding and doing a proper due diligence of the qualifications of your dance teacher is the first step towards becoming a good dancer. A child has to show his dedication and prove his passion to learn from the best. Apart from learning the steps, the hand movements and the postures, knowing the history of the dance forms is also very crucial. It helps in connecting with the era when it was first practiced and performed. This eventually enhances the feel while you dance and it also makes you love the dance form even more. Just as we know our scriptures to trace our origin, tracing the origin of the dance form is also essential.
What are the pre-coaching essentials e.g. Right age, mindset or any other?
Being ready to learn dance is the most important prerequisite. The attitude where you want to do a short-term course won"t help you in learning the dance form. You need to have a keen interest to learn the dance and not just a few dance steps on a trending song. If you are serious about dance, your goal needs to be learning the dance form and feeling it to its core.
Technology and scientific training have been changing the way people get trained in Dancing. What’s your take?
The contests, shows and the stage exhibits the best technologies. With the lights, the decoration, the props, dance gets glorified. All the glamour has given a new life to dance.
How can one select an ideal ‘Guru’ for getting formal training for Dancing?
Just like parents find a great school for their child"s education, the same time and dedication need to be invested in finding a good dance school with good gurus. Research plays a very important role here. One needs to go out and explore. Talk to people and check out their techniques. Trying out different teachers is also important before finalizing the best one for yourself. The teacher needs to be a good dancer and should be able to teach well too. Thus, exploring, researching and finally, selecting the best guru can make you learn the dance form in the best way possible.
What do you suggest for better accessibility of Dancing in remote parts of India?
Reality shows give them a good opportunity. Many towns organize dance fests where people from villages are invited to showcase their talent. Such fests give them a stage to perform. The more they perform, the more exposure they get. Take the instance of my assistant who is from Allahabad. I first saw him perform at a fest called "Ripe Souls" and then gave him the opportunity of being my assistant. He has been with me for five years.
Your piece of advice to parents and new generation especially when some people are skeptical about career in extra curriculum.
Firstly, my advice to parents is that don"t send your child to a dance school because you want them to dance. Send them only when they want to dance. And secondly, choose your child"s teacher very carefully. A teacher who will not only make him learn dance but, broadly educate him to be a good dancer.
How can one identify this talent in the family and encourage it?
In school, a student is first allowed to learn everything and then, gradually he becomes confident about a particular subject and makes it his specialization subject. A similar approach should be given to dance. Let the child explore various kinds of dance forms and finally, discover his favorite. Whatever he chooses, let him pursue it freely without any restriction. Go for the dance form which has structure and learn it from the basics.
One thing which you feel you want to change from the past while you walk down memory lane…
I wouldn"t trade my life for anything else in the world. I am happy with whatever I have done, and I accept everything to the core. Whatever mistakes I committed, I have moved on from them. All the stepping stones in my journey have made me come to this point of my life. I don"t want to change anything.