Dance studios and those working in the field weigh to pull through a pandemic
Hyderabad: When Pruthvi Ramaswamy started Steps Dance Studio many years ago, his main goal had been to teach students the love of dance. Trained in New York in ballet, jazz and hip hop, he knew it was not perfecting the moves, but the fluidity in movement that mattered most. So every child or adult that came to his class, went home not only with a smile after a sweaty dance lesson, but also a feeling of satisfaction. A couple of years later amid a pandemic, he is still trying to stick to his original beliefs, but barely.
“Everyone took a hard hit during these two years. I have never seen so many dance studios shut down this quickly. I feel fortunate that I have managed to pull through and retain some of my staff. After the initial lockdown, going online was the only solution. And fortunately, for us, many of our regular clients came back,” says Pruthvi.
Now he teaches jazz, ballet and hip hop to kids throughout the day besides one-to-one virtual sessions. Rents, overhead expenses of running a studio have all eaten up into earnings. Going online has come with its own share of challenges too. Chandrashekhar of Chandu Wow Dance Studio previously ran five centres in the city. He had to shut down three of them and now works with three instructors, also providing them lodging and board.
“The personal bond you develop through in-person teaching is difficult with new students. Also, we can’t teach krumping online to the kids, as it’s hard to follow. Hip hop and Bollywood is much easier to explain in terms of beat and tempo. I try to put myself in the student’s shoes to figure out how they would react to a style, move etc. We have to work doubly hard to keep them engaged,” explains Chandu who now conducts eight batches of hip hop and Bollywood through the day online. What helps are foreign clients from abroad wanting to learn Bollywood moves which bring in a tidy sum for the studio.
For backup dancers like Vani, the hard lockdown of last year meant no income for many months. “May and December are the months we get to earn a lot as there are many events in corporates, weddings, functions. But like last year, this time too, we are stuck at home. Being part of the TFI union helps members like us. But those who aren’t members struggled for daily necessities,” shares Vani who works as a backup dancer in the dance reality show Sridevi Drama Company on ETV.
For many dancers like her, reality TV shows are a boon now. “At least 30 to 40 of us get to work now in the shows. Times are hard, but fortunately, the dance masters within the Telugu industry have been helpful in providing work,” says Vani. The dancer now dedicates part of her time uploading videos for reels on Instagram that have brought many followers to her and offers for collaborations from event managers. With a steady income from reality shows and events now, she is able to provide gigs to other performers like her.
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