Shiamak Davar to create ‘the biggest Bollywood extravaganza the world has ever seen’

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Shiamak Davar

Choreographer Shiamak Davar will be directing his troupe and will make brief appearances at various Times of India Film Awards events. Submitted photo

Choreographer Shiamak Davar’s signature Bollywood style has transcended borders around the globe, spawning studios in Vancouver, Toronto, the U.K., Australia, United Arab Emirates and, of course, India.

Now Davar, who arrived in Vancouver Monday, is busy gearing up for the Times of India Film Awards this weekend.

While he prepared for weeks for Thursday night’s TOIFA Musical Extravaganza at the PNE and the grand awards ceremony Saturday at B.C. Place at his studio in Mumbai, he kept in constant touch with his crews in Canada, helping them train and rehearse for the weekend performance via Skype and his local Shiamak Davar Dance Team.

Davar will be directing his troupe and will even be making brief performances at each event. Davar and 145 dancers will perform alongside Bollywood celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra and Mohit Chaudan.

TOIFA is just one of many internationally recognized events Davar has had a hand in. He’s also designed shows like the Closing Ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games (2006 and 2010) and the World Economic Forum. He’s even pushed the Bollywood boundaries and rubbed shoulders with international stars like Bill Clinton, Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey.

Vancouver Desi took the unique opportunity to see just how Davar manages working on such an international level.

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Q: How have you been preparing for the big performances with crews practising in both Vancouver and Mumbai?
A: I have fabulous teams in both Mumbai and Vancouver who help me with everything I do. I personally auditioned the local Vancouver dancers over Skype. I choreograph in Mumbai and send the videos to my team in Vancouver. They teach the dancers there and send back videos for me to see. I sometimes teach them the choreography over Skype. Thanks to technology, all this is possible now and it doesn’t matter which part of the world my teams are working in. Even in terms of costumes and props that I design, being in two different continents opens up that many more possibilities as different materials and props are available in different cities, so I make the best of both worlds.

Q: What are the challenges when organizing a show on an international level like this? Have you done this before where you have groups rehearsing in different parts of the world?
A: I have choreographed and designed many international events including the Closing Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne (2006), the Opening & Closing Ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi (2010) and many others. For the event in Melbourne, I had 400 dancers from India from various cities and 400 dancers from Melbourne. All 800 dancers met for the first time in Melbourne. My team was super organized and trained them fabulously well in each city. When they all came together in Melbourne for the joint rehearsals each group knew exactly what to do and it worked like magic. It is challenging but thanks to my dedicated team we have done some great work.

Q: How does Bollywood translate across the globe?
A: Bollywood has become a craze all over the world. And the energy and exuberance of Bollywood music and dance is infectious. My dance classes running successfully in India, Canada, Australia, UK and UAE are a proof of the Bollywood effect on the world. It is fascinating to see not only Indians but also other communities and cultures embracing and enjoying Bollywood dance even though they may not understand the lyrics as dance is the universal language of the soul.

Q: How do you teach some of the local dancers in Vancouver who auditioned but have never danced before? What are those challenges and what advice/suggestions do you give them to help them learn/adapt?
A: Our motto is Have Feet. Will Dance. Over the last 27 years we have taught individuals from four to 84 years of age from various backgrounds and with little or no prior dance experience. Sheer determination, dedication and hard work makes it all possible. The local dancers who auditioned came with such passion to be a part of TOIFA and I admire that. They are working very hard to keep up with my dance company. An event of such magnitude requires long hours of rehearsals. In order to come up to the level of my dance company they will have to put in extra hours of practice.

Q: Why did you choose to have dancers that don’t have any experience with the style?
A: Our mission is to spread the joy of dance. I wanted to include local talent and give them an opportunity to experience a world class Bollywood production. An event like this does not happen in Vancouver often, so I thought it would be a great platform to bring dancers from India and Vancouver together on stage to perform with Bollywood’s biggest stars at the TOIFA Awards.

Q: What kind of schedule and preparatory work are dancers putting in?
A: The various groups of dancers have been rehearsing every day for five to six hours for the past few weeks. My Dance Team from Vancouver will be performing at the April 4th and April 5th events, too, so they are rehearsing longer hours.

Q: What kind of prep work are you putting in in Mumbai? Do you spend your days working with the dancers?
A: I enjoy my work so I don’t calculate how much time I put it. When I am working on any project I immerse myself completely in the creative process. Between choreography, designing costumes and props or designing the music, every aspect of the creative process is fulfilling and takes the time it takes. Some things happen magically in minutes and some take hours. But at the end of the day its all a worthwhile experience for my team and I. My creativity is at its best from dusk to dawn.

Q: What can Vancouver expect April 4 to 6?
A: For the TOIFA Musical Extravaganza on April 4 at the Pacific Coliseum, my Dance Company will be performing with two of the artists. I will be performing songs from my recently released music album and my dancers will join me to get the audience on their feet. Since this is a music concert the choreography is designed to support the singers with visuals around them. With the amazing line =up, I am sure it will be an entertaining evening.

My Dance Company is also performing at the Gala & Technical Awards event on April 5 at Vancouver Convention Centre, with two of the recently launched Bollywood stars, one of them used to be my student. So it’s quite exciting for me to choreograph for my student who has gone on to become a star in his own right.

The main TOIFA awards event is going to be the most exciting Bollywood awards event that I have ever designed, directed and choreographed. With a total of 250 performers besides the stars of Bollywood, the show will definitely be the biggest Bollywood extravaganza Vancouver (or even the world) has ever seen. I am most excited that the first TOIFA events are being held in my second home – Vancouver!

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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