By Sonya Rehman
Launched by Mahima Mehta in 2014, MAD (Mad About Dance), is a dance academy in Dubai that focuses on various dance forms, such as; Bollywood, Jazz & Contemporary, Freestyle, Lyrical Hip Hop, and more.
Part of the corporate world for many years, Mahima eventually decided to quit Marketing in desperate need for an outlet that would give her greater creative freedom. She eventually found her calling: dance.
And this year, in June, a MAD dance trainer, Anup Bhardwaj, was crowned the winner of the Nach Baliye 7 UAE Challenge. With an intensive degree in Chhau Dance (a form of Indian tribal martial dance) and learning professional ballet at the Imperial Fernando Ballet Company (IFBC) in Delhi, Anup has also been a part of popular dance competitions in both Dubai and India.
In a chat with Masala!, both Mahima and Anup speak about their love for the art form and the future of dance in the world today.
What led you to initiating your very own dance studio?
Mahima: I always envisioned having a brand of my own one day that promotes creativity and fun, but I didn’t know that it was going to take shape in the form of a dance studio. While I was on a sabbatical trying to figure out my career-path, I joined many activity classes including dance. In the process, I changed to a healthier lifestyle, lost 8 kilos, and regained my self-confidence. Once the decision was made to initiate MAD, everything somehow fell into place.
Tell me a little about how you met Anup?
Mahima: Anup along with my other MAD trainers, Sarthak and Akshay, were my dance teachers and fitness trainers at the Tee & Bee Dance Institute [in Dubai] since the last two years. I remember when I saw them perform for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to see such good dancers in Dubai. All three of them come with different styles and strengths that complement each other. Fortunately, all three currently work for MAD.
What’s your favourite form of dance, and why?
Mahima: I love traditional folk dances; it’s such a treat and honour to watch groups of people dancing in their traditional costumes celebrating their culture with pride.
When did you first realize your love for dancing?
Anup: I grew up watching Michael Jackson and Govinda dancing – I wanted to be just like them. When I would see a video of them dancing I would visualize myself in their place.
What does the art of dance mean to you?
Anup: It’s more than just a freedom of expression. Dance is inside of me, it’s a part of me. It’s something that will always remain with me even if I’m not as good at a later stage. While only the technical knowledge and theory that can be learnt, some things are just God-gifted.
How did it feel when you were titled the winner of the Nach Baliye 7 UAE competition?
Anup: Really good. It was the first ever show that I participated in (in Dubai), and we won. Going to Mumbai and performing in front of Farah Khan, Chetan Bhagat, Preity Zinta, and of course, all the celeb contestants, was memorable. Although everything was super rushed and we had to change the performance last minute, it all worked out.
How long did it take for you to practice your routine for the competition?
Anup: Approximately two weeks. It was extremely memorable and challenging.
It wasn’t easy to work during the day and practice all night. Also, the show requirement was to have a female partner, but thankfully, Aathira agreed despite her college exams. MAD recently choreographed the Heriot Watt (HW) University dance performance in Jashn (the biggest inter-college dance fest), and Aathira happened to be the dance club president of HW university. That’s the connection. Her style and my style is different, therefore rehearsals took longer.
Did you think you’d win?
Anup: Well, yes, especially after the first act when we received a standing ovation from everyone.
Was your family supportive of your decision to become a dancer?
Anup: My father wasn’t supportive at all, however, my mother was. But over time, after seeing me on TV shows and after I gained some popularity, my father’s mindset changed.
What is the future of dance in the world today, Anup?
Anup: Dance is gaining a lot of media attention lately. Due to this, parents today come forward with much enthusiasm and want their kids to learn dancing more than ever before. However, I would love to see more classical and traditional dances gain media attention that it so rightfully deserves. There are many classical forms of dance in parts of India that are dying out.
How do you feel when you’re dancing? What’s going through your mind when you’re in the midst of it?
Anup: If alone and I’m dancing, I’m lost in a different trance or state of being. It’s very different than dancing at work or for a show. Without being pompous (and many good dancers might agree), I intuitively know what the next beat is going to be even if we hear the song for the first time.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to become a professional dancer?
Anup: It’s a growing industry. Dance forms are plenty and new styles are constantly cropping up. That being stated, my only advice would be to ensure that your basic college education isn’t given up in the bargain.