If you haven’t followed the work of Terence Lewis, you are living under a rock. The choreographer, who made contemporary dance form a household name in India, has also represented the country at various international platforms while becoming a favourite judge on television’s biggest dance reality shows. Terence, who has choreographed for over two dozen films and various music albums, in an exclusive interview told us why he is keeping away from film choreography.
We begin by asking Terence what dance has given him in life? “When I was young, it was a way to find my identity, people knew me as a dancing kid. When I was 20-21, it offered me financial stability. Much later dance was no longer just for money or passion. It became a way of giving back to the community. Dance is such a beautiful aspect of life which no human being should miss,” he said.
Terence, who has films like Lagaan and Ram-Leela to his credit, became a popular face on television after judging the reality show Dance India Dance with Remo D’Souza and Geeta Kapoor. He followed it up with Nach Baliye. “Being an ambassador of dance, I feel it’s a responsibility to ensure that people who are watching it also get educated about it and understand the art form and the talent that the contestant has. It has also made me who I am today, a household name! I don’t see myself as a judge, I see myself as a mentor. I may have achieved great success from television, but I still enjoy teaching and that’s why I have my institute to teach the art of dance,” said Terence.
Terence has hundreds of youngsters enrolling in his Terence Lewis Professional Training Institute every year. His recent collaboration was with Geometry Encompass by Roshan Abbas, which organised a dance session on the World Dance Day and had instructors from Terence’s dance institute to take sessions with its employees. “My instructors were very happy to initiate people who are non-dancers and never get a chance to leave their desk because of the work pressure, to come and take a dance class. I think it lifted their spirits. The beauty of dance is not only physical. Because of music, it is emotional and somewhere you connect with it,” he shared.
Terence regularly choreographs international stage shows, Bollywood events, ads and music videos. However, he has stopped choreographing for Bollywood films, his last one being “Ang Laga Le” from Ram-Leela. He explains why. “I don’t believe in retakes. I love that adventure and thrill of one-take which happens on stage or when you’re judging TV shows where there are no retakes. I think there are too many shortcuts in film choreography now and somehow there’s too much dependency on camera angles, make-up, costumes and filling it up with too many dancers, shooting on exotic locations. Somewhere I feel the essence of choreography gets lost so I am looking to be a part of projects that have the essence of choreography deeply rooted and other frills are minimalistic. I am a bit old school and would prefer to do it the old-school way where you have to actually dance like Waheeda Rahman, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit,” he clarified.
The dancer guru, who wishes to perfect Chhau, Kathak, Dance Hall House and Release technique, feels elated to see his protegees taking the art to newer heights. “It feels great and I take an immense pride in shaping the careers of leading dancers of the industry, be it Shakti Mohan, Mayuresh Wadkar, Shampa Sonthalia or Punit Pathak. Apart from these known faces, there are various hidden gems in the studios who are dedicated and working hard in their craft, who don’t care about the fame but just do it for passion,” he said.
So does he feel the country has become more dance-conscious today? He remarked, “Of course! Dance scenario in India has changed drastically in recent times. I would say reality shows have helped to transform the outlook of dance in the country while the advent of the internet has brought in awareness. It’s literally becoming a melting pot that has brought about a revolution in the art form by expanding the avenues in many ways.”
He also shared that he wants to choreograph for dancing diva Madhuri Dixit some day. “She isn’t only a charismatic dancer but the way she adds her own flavour and ‘adaa’ to the choreography, makes her stand out. Also, she is an avid learner who will understand the technicality of dance,” said Terence.
His “chummeshwar performance” still remains his signature phrase while judging a dance show. And he laughed at the mention of his ‘shuddh’ Hindi. Giving us an insight into how he perfected the language, Terence said, “Well, that was quite a task! Although I was great at Hindi back in school but, eventually in college I lost touch. When I saw my episodes of Dance India Dance, I realised I really had to improve my language. I replaced my English newspaper with a Hindi one, started reading Hindi books and teaching at my institute only in Hindi. Whenever I was hard pressed for words, I used the online dictionary to correct myself. I love challenges and love to learn new things. Besides I find language and people who use words beautifully, very impressive.”