Guwahati: Having grown up in a traditional Sikh family where dancing automatically meant breaking into bhangra moves a teenage boy from Delhi made it big in the world of Ballet.
According to a news published in BBC world, a few years ago Kamal Singh was even unaware of a dance form called ballet. It was a Bollywood movie that made him learn about this particular dance form. He was surprised but drawn to the fluid elegance of ballet he saw on the big screen.
The 20-year-old son of an e-rickshaw driver from Delhi only took up ballet four years ago. He has trained intensively at the IFBC School based in New Delhi, under the watchful eye of his mentor Fernando Aguilera.
Kamal became the first Indian dancer to win a place on the English National Ballet School’s professional trainee programme.
Living in Chelsea – a world away from his family and home in Vikaspuri, Delhi – Kamal spends his days, masked and socially distanced, training in a dance studio in Battersea with just 12 other students.
Being the son of an e-rickshaw driver in New Delhi, Singh has not just fought the social stigma that comes with being a male ballet dancer but also economic hurdles. Ballet itself is an expensive passion to pursue, with high costs of training and gear, making it less diverse and inclusive than many other dance forms. For someone hailing from less privileged backgrounds it remains inaccessible.
Fees for the year-long course at the ballet school cost £8,000, and then there are living expenses. It was out of Kamal’s reach – until the pair turned to crowdfund.
Their chosen crowdfunding platform, Ketto, was co-founded by Bollywood actor Kunal Kapoor, who – in turn – used his star power and social network on the young dancer’s behalf. It prompted friend and fellow Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan to pledge £3,200 to the fund.
In a matter of weeks, Kamal’s fund had reached £18,000. Today, almost £21,000 has been donated. And the money is still coming in.
A few months ago, Kamal decided to go a step further and apply for professional courses.
Last year, Singh received the first international validation for his effort. He was accepted for a summer programme at the historic Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St Petersburg where he was cast as the soloist in the production, Gayaneh. “Till then, I had never traveled outside Delhi. After Russia, I felt the first surge of confidence that I may have a talent and can do well in ballet,” says Singh. He has been the principal dancer in the school’s annual productions of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Legend of Love and Sleeping Beauty.
Singh is scheduled to start the year-long Professional Trainee Programme with the English National Ballet early next month and has started a fundraiser.
Singh’s story sounds like something just out of Netflix’s February release Yeh Ballet, a story based on two teens from economically weaker backgrounds trying to make it big while pursuing their dance dreams.