Truly “The Indian Salsa Princess” - The Story of Sneha Kapoor
18th April 1986
Proudly says ‘imd1’ for
Salsa as a dance form is usually considered a western and International concept! The word Salsa makes us visualize a very spicy, graceful and modern dance form! An Indian lady could challenge the status quo and pursue a commendable career in Salsa to mark India"s presence in this globally loved dance form! Popularly known as the “The Indian Salsa Princess” and even as “Salsa Sneha”, Sneha Kapoor justifies these titles with her mind blowing Salsa moves. A salsa dancer, choreographer & an instructor, Sneha is one such performer where destiny chose this profession for her. Her move from athletics to dance after an injury is impressive. She moved on and made her presence in Guinness World Record for “the most number of Swing Dance Flips (39) in a Minute"" by beating the earlier record of 33 flips flawlessly. Sneha is the first Indian to win International Salsa Championship. So far, she has embraced different dance forms like Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Adagio Jive, Hip-Hop and Bollywood. Currently she has choreographed many shows, movies down the south and in Bollywood.
Team imd1 had a chat with her a few days ago, read on to know her further!
We are really keen to know, how did your journey begin?
Dance was something never on my mind. Infact, I was studying in 11th Standard and had applied to get into a dance team in college. The choreographer rejected me because of my shy nature. Prior to that, my school friends too asked me to get involved in dance but it was just not meant for me then. I used to cry out of my stage fear each time. I was always a determined Athlete. However, destiny had different (and perhaps better!!) plans. I had a severe injury which restricted me to continue with athletics. When I took a break from athletics and started dancing in one of the college event rehearsals, the choreographer of our act Richard Tholoor, appreciated my dancing and told me you have the potential, you just need training and proper guidance. He encouraged me to come to his studio to be part of his troupe and continue if I wish to. Since I was apprehensive, I took a friend along to his studio. I spent the whole year dancing in the third row at the extreme corner and slowly started moving to the first row and then moved to the center position. These changes always added to my determination to put in extra efforts, give my 100% and pursue dance as a career rather than a hobby. It was sheer luck that people who were with Richard quit their job and I got a chance to become Richard"s dancing partner. From that day, I started practicing for 13 hours a day in addition to my college schedules. I started travelling for competitions. Since 2007, I have travelled almost 50% of the globe. I proved myself and got prominent even before realizing it myself. My dream was to become an athlete and not a dancer. I chose athletics but dance chose me.
Quote for Life
Believe in yourself. You are your own benchmark. Strive to do better in your chosen career and you will reach your goal.
The ones who have taught me and left me with their teachings
My mother and my twin sister Neha
Food I Love
Anything in Chocolate & Chicken Biryani
Food I Hate
Had I not been a dancer then
I would have been a Fashion Designer
Like Vacations at
I fell in love with all the places I have been to so far. But would like to visit Fiji, Bali
Favorite Pass time
Art & Craft
“Cheer Up! Tomorrow is a new day and it would be better”
Favorite Movies / Series
Scandal (English), Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (Hindi)
Favorite Actor / Actress
Naseeruddin Shah, Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee, Alia Bhatt
What has been your success mantra?
I believe if you have the ability to look at yourself without bias and only honestly and if you are able to keep yourself and your daily achievements as your bench mark and try to be better everyday, success will follow!
What were the hardships & hurdles you encountered and how did you overcome them?
When I started dancing, there were people who were my seniors and were dancing with an experience of 10+ years. With my dedication, I became popular in my community. There were few dislikes I “earned” from this situation [smiles with pride]. They were not even half way since I achieved recognition in just a span of 1-1.5 years. There were concerns and questions on my hard work. However, I have been through it and know that it"s sheer hard work that has brought me here. I believe one does not need to start dancing at a very young age. I started when I was 19. In the year 2008, I severely injured my right leg and it split in three pieces within. It was a major accident but I am still figuring out how did it happen! Running around for 2.5 years in hospital for check-ups and undergoing 3 surgeries depressed me. That was the toughest time. I could not go back to athletics. As training in athletics was impossible with a broken leg after that accident, somewhere in my mind I decided to get back to my routine in 3 months" time. It took around 2 years to actually get out of all that. Meanwhile, my mom encouraged me not to accept defeat. She used to say, you will get what you deserve & are passionate about and it will come back to you. I never thought that I could dance the way I used to but just went with the flow. There was a blow of positivity inside me. I did ‘India"s Got Talent" in spite of having my last surgery pending. I came to Mumbai and then got an opportunity at ‘Jhalak Dikhla Jaa". I knew I had to start from scratch. My life changed completely after that. I settled in Mumbai.
Success is incomplete without its share of failures. How should one overcome them to move on?
I have failed a number of times. The irony of my life is that I have done reality shows for 6 years but never won any of them. But my work speaks volumes. Though I have been in top three or top five, I never reached the winning spot. Not being a winner also has certain advantages, I feel. I have always been appreciated when my dance moves have been correct. I trust in working hard irrespective of lose or win. When the destiny"s chord strikes and it"s your time, you will achieve what you want.
Do you think training in dance can be helpful in life even if one does not want to consider it as a career goal?
Yes, dance teaches you to express yourself in a convenient and graceful way. You can play any character without feeling hesitant. Any form of dance allows you to let go of your inhibitions. One learns to become confident, patient, accommodating with peculiar people with contrast opinions, converse well since you meet diverse set of people and one learns lessons that one can implement in daily life.
Who has been your influencer in your journey so far?
Richard Tholoor & Lourd Vijay laid a foundation in my dancing career. I started my dance training there. Richard is still my dancing partner. Secondly, my mother had an important contribution in taking this further. She made me rethink about my passion and taught me & my sister to be happy in what we do rather than counting on the gains. She always says that, ‘You just have one life, so be happy with what you do and follow your heart." When you work hard, automatically the monetary rewards would follow; thus, money for me has always been a secondary aspect.
Which was “that” moment when you considered yourself as “I am the 1”?
I remember when I was doing a show in Bengaluru, there was a little girl aged 4-5 years old who came up to me and said, “I love you Sneha, I want to be like you when I grow up"". That moment I felt I am responsible and ‘imd1" in shaping up someone"s life. I felt humbled and realized that when so many people look up to me, the accountability increases and I have to rise above my own benchmarks. I was just in my 20"s somewhere in the year 2006. Many people wrote back to me including my fellow dancers when I took my step back from dancing after the accident stating that I inspired them. It was encouraging to know that many considered me as their benchmark.
Is your success backed by a formal training?
When I travelled overseas, I attended a lot of private classes for competitions. The learning was prominent as it was quite different from the self-taught ways in India. The teachers were great there, very patient & technically sound. They taught us to understand our body, postures and dance moves. I learnt basic techniques that could be applied to hundreds of dance forms under one umbrella. The best thing about these teachers was, when I represented India in the ESPN WORLD SALSA Championship 2007, I shared the competitive stage with contestants amongst whom 40% were those who trained me in dance. Contending with these masters was a different level altogether.
Could you reflect on the importance of systematic training in Latin dance?
With Latin or any form of dancing, one can learn the highest or the lowest level of the dance form in a dance institute. I personally prefer systematic training since your foundation becomes strong. If the basics are not good you will find it difficult to move ahead.
Are there any prerequisites like age, fitness or a particular type of mindset required to pursue Latin dance?
Nothing in particular! When you start learning dance form, it automatically teaches you basic moves, body posture, dance on heels, compatibility with your partner, how to lead & follow your partner & coordination. Latin dancing is more of a social craft and is fun to perform. It has its own syllabus. One will learn a lot in the process. So there is no age criterion as such.
Technology and scientific training have been changing the way people get trained in Dance. What"s your take on this?
Change is the only constant in any art form that is making it grow and reach thousands of people on daily basis. If you have the heart to do it, that shall make transformation. Technology & innovation is providing a bigger platform to perform better. Earlier the performance was subtle and simple. The contestants would perform on a particular stage and leave. Now the performance is enriched by LED lights, laser lights and sound effects. It makes the performance more enhanced & interactive. There are professional graphic designers with whom we sit and plot the whole concept. For instance, if I want a ship to sail through in the act when it comes in middle of LED and If I put my hand it should shatter. I have to explain the visual in my mind to the designer and he will work out timing accordingly. So we also learn a lot in this entire process and put in lot of efforts for even a 2 minute duration dance performance.
How can one select an ideal ‘Guru" for getting formal coaching?
The qualities which a guru should have are that they should be true to the art form rather than being commercial. Their respect and love for the art will pass on to their prodigy. The teacher should have that interest to make you grow without having any inhibition of passing on their skills to their students, since they are the ones who will carry the legacy in the future.
What according to you can be a scope of improvement in training for dance in India?
From the time I started competing abroad, many dancers have followed. Many instructors have trained themselves abroad and they return to India and teach here. They even participate in the festivals scheduled for 4-5 days. In these few days, 30-40 instructors are slated to teach. They go abroad once in six months or a year to get proficient and learn new styles. All of us are at the same level of teaching now. So the gap is getting bridged.
What do you suggest for better accessibility of dance remote parts of India?
Since reality shows have started, it has given access to all dance enthusiasts. Many kids just pick up the moves from T.V & Internet by copying their favorite stars. These talented dancers do get identified through reality shows. Media and technology has given access to opportunities for people in far-flung areas.
Your piece of advice to parents and new generation especially when some people are skeptical about career in extra curriculum.
Parents had a notion that money and career cannot be made in creative careers. That thinking is abolished as today"s artists have a good lifestyle. But education is also important along with becoming a performer as one becomes more confident to face the tough challenges which come along. Along with studies, love for art & craft has to be encouraged. Moulding talent and love for art from a young age is important to make your children famous, respected and essentially - dedicated. Many children are opting for Arts stream. Extracurricular is also to be focused upon. The scenario is on a transition mode as I currently see it.
One thing which you feel you want to change from the past while you walk down memory lane…
I would not want to change anything. Not even the accident! It has taught me to value each day and my every decision. I take things seriously. If I would have not met with that accident, I would have never thought of entering the world of dancing. Favorable circumstances just came my way. It all had a chain reaction.
How can one identify this talent in the family and encourage it?
It"s not easy. Ascertaining takes time. If a kid likes playing tennis she might join classes. During this course, one actually comes to know whether they are liking or no. Kids are exposed to so many options that they choose their own dream rather than following their parents footsteps.
In your opinion, what are the basic key traits apart from formal training that make “imd1”?
After waking up in morning, the first thought coming to my mind is, ‘I can"t wait to dance". Without being self-driven, you can"t achieve what you want to. One need not be pushed by anyone. You have to trust yourself to work hard.
Any other thoughts you want to share?
One very important thing I"ve understood And would surely like to add here, be kind to everyone around and never cheat anyone just to move ahead in life. People will remember the kind of person you are & were even after you"re gone, much more than your achievements. They will always remember how you treated them and made them feel.