“Dream hard, work harder and you will go places”

Ashley Lobo, the acclaimed choreographer and educator, says nothing can stop a dancer who is motivated, disciplined and hungry for success

A global pandemic and an impending lockdown may have yet again impacted the commercial and creative aspects of performing arts but Australian-Indian choreographer and educator Ashley Lobo believes an abiding passion for dance can open even invisible doors. The point is to persist, keep learning and find new ways to express oneself. Drawing upon his expertise as a mentor at his dance institutions, the Danceworx Performing Arts Academy and the Navdhara India Dance Theatre, and having spent over a year balancing the virtual stage and live dance training, Ashley offers tips to aspiring dancers as to how they can navigate this time yet again with hope, courage and even success.

Inculcate Passion

If a dancer has passion, she/he will have the discipline to persevere regardless of the challenges ahead. A pandemic can be emotionally and physically draining on a dancer who is used to synergising and performing with other dancers on stage, in studios and also soaking in the live appreciation of the audience. But passion coupled with adaptability can propel a dancer forward, says Ashley and adds, “The one thing I learnt during the lockdown last year was that we always have enough space and energy to do what we really want. I adapted my passion for dancing to a more constricted space and developed a daily routine that I stuck to. During my online classes, I asked my students to do the same. No matter how overwhelmed you may be feeling….as a dancer when your feet start moving, your mind also moves to happier places.”

Ashley Lobo with dancers

Identify a favourite dance style

When a dancer is serious about pursuing his or her passion as a vocation and a lifelong career, it is important to identify the style they want to specialise in. Ashley cites the example of many young Indian dancers whose dedication to ballet has won them scholarships and taken them abroad to master the form. He says, “When you clarify just what creative zone you want to specialise, work or teach in, it distils your choices to the essentials and you are able to find options that are suited to you.”

Get the fundamentals of theory right

According to Ashley, to revise, repeat and imbibe the basic theories of a chosen dance form is important. He suggests, “Learn online with a teacher, join an academy remotely if you cannot learn in person and tune your body and mind. Do your own research on how great dancers built their technique, watch acclaimed performances, check what international studios are working on. All this information is out there. Be hungry and relentless. Build your foundation and never stop working on yourself and your craft.”

Focus on the positives

It is hard to find motivation in tough times but as Ashley says, “One of my favourite quotes that I use repeatedly to inspire myself and my students is, ‘My next move must be motivated by dance itself.’ This is what it is all about. When you let dance lead you to your next step and the next, the future reveals itself and believe me, it will be beautiful. The world over, dance is getting the respect it deserves through performance-based shows and films. Dancers are beginning to represent India at the global level as performers, teachers & choreographers. And we are all set to make an even bigger splash in the years to come so dream hard, work harder and you will go places.”

(Cover image: Choreographer Ashley Lobo)

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