“What made you start dancing?” I ask Abhishek as I flip through my notebook, searching for a blank page to take notes.
“Majboori.” Abhishek replies. I stop. I look up and stare at him. He shrugs, “Partly.” He says. “More like, there was nothing else to do.”
Usually, I get replies along the lines of, ‘It was my passion.’ Or ‘My parents pushed me into it.’ Every once in a while, I’ll get a special, interesting answer but even those pale next to the reply Abhishek gave me.
See, Abhishek Deval has a beautiful story to tell.
Abhishek is a student of Sanskrit at Shivaji college and an amazing dancer. I met him at Hindu during Mecca where he was taking part in a competition. It took me around five minutes to decide that he was special. Once he was done, I went up to where he was sitting and asked him for an interview.
“I didn’t come from a very well to do family.” Abhishek begins. “My father drinks. I have two elder brothers who supported us. They worked as salesmen. When I started dancing, I had no money. I had no training. I went to a dance academy and made a deal: You teach me, I’ll teach your students. All very informal. I was fourteen.” Abhishek smiles while he tells me all this.
“I learnt a little bit of Indian Folk dance. A little Shiv Tandav. Nothing big.”
“I remember when I won a random competition; I received a thousand bucks as prize money. I was so happy.” Abhishek tells me. “Part of the reason I started dancing was because I wanted to do something for my family. I had no clue how go about it, though.”
“I used to watch a lot of videos on YouTube. I used to go to the river bank and try to imitate what I saw.”
“There were these two fellows, Raj Sir and Pintu Sir, who used to take walks near where I was practicing. They used to see me and one day they talked to me.”
This is where Abhishek’s story starts taking a turn for good.
“They took me to dance shows. I guess they wanted to properly expose me to the art. All it did was depress me, though.” Abhishek tells me. “I remember sitting and thinking, ‘I can’t be on that level!’. Raju Sir and Pintu Sir had faith in me even when I had no faith in myself. We gathered a group of kids from similar economic conditions as me and we started practicing. We were the Akar Group. We appeared on India’s Got Talent, Season 6.”
“Unfortunately, that didn’t lead to anything.” Abhishek says. “We were thirty people who couldn’t really support ourselves. If we were to perform in the show, the producers would have had to face a lot of expense on our behalf. Eventually, there were budget problems and we weren’t able to continue on the show. That was sad.” Abhishek admits.
However, Abhishek didn’t lose faith. He’d started in a certain direction and he wasn’t stopping.
“I made a resume. I printed around two hundred copies and sent them everywhere. I was looking for teaching jobs.” Abhishek says.
“There were no responses for around a month. Guards at schools used to turn me away at the gate. Then, one day, I get a call from Navjeevan School in Ghaziabad. They were looking for someone to choreograph for the school annual function.”
“At first, the Principal was disturbed because I had no training, no qualifications to speak of. I offered them a trial of one to two days where I practiced with the students six hours at a time. They loved it.”
“After that, I’ve sort of taken off.” Abhishek says. “Aside from teaching dance, I also teach yoga and Zumba. I also choreograph for MNCs. I work at my college dance society, Footloose where I’ve learnt a lot. I’m always sort of busy.”
That eventually became a problem, says Abhishek’s friend Shireen. Shireen has been standing next to Abhishek during the entire interview. He tells me that they are very good friends. “At one point, it was like he was forgetting himself.” Shireen tells me. He wasn’t dancing for himself anymore. Shireen started signing him up for different dance competitions. He participates in them not because he wants to win prizes, but because he loves to dance.
Though yeah, he does end up winning a lot anyway. Between the time I interviewed him and wrote this article, Abhishek had won seven competitions.
When standing in front of a person who has accomplished so much in life, you have to ask:
“What do you think are your best accomplishments?”
“My older brother, Rahul, was always as interested in Dance as I was. But, he had to support the family. I pushed him into dancing. Today he works in choreography just like I do.”
“Also, my brothers and I have put my father in a Nasha Mukt Kendra. There’s that.” He shrugs and smiles.
Today, Abhishek’s combined earnings from all his ventures are around fifty thousand per month. He manages to support his family very comfortably.
Abhishek Deval’s story is important because whenever we watch a talented artist perform, we don’t give much thought to the amount of struggle a person has to go through to reach that level. We don’t think about the stories that these people might have. They are artists and all art is fuelled by emotion and emotion emerges from circumstance. Next time you meet a singer, a dancer or any performer who you think is pretty good, sit them down and ask them where they come from. Who knows, their story might be as interesting as Abhishek’s.
Check out his Solo Dance here:
Also, dont forget to check out our Talent Of The Week- A Brilliant Pianist from Jai Hind College.
Written by Karan Kimothi.
For the ATKT.in Editorial Team.