What are the thoughts that might come to your desi parent’s minds if you tell them you want to become a ballet dancer and pursue it as a career? They are most likely to scoff at you and tell you things like “Ballet is for western countries. Can’t you learn an Indian dance form?”, or “Dancing is a pass-time. It’s not a real job.”, or “Middle-class families don’t have the luxury of choosing dance as a career, let alone ballet.”
Stereotypically considered as a feminine dance form, ballet is not just regarded as a “western” form of dance (thereby raising eyebrows in the first place) but is also thought as something which only girls perform.
Therefore, imagine the kind of hurdles Dipesh Verma, an 18-year-old boy from Siliguri, West Bengal, had to go through to fulfil his dream of becoming a ballet dancer.
Speaking to News18, Dipesh tells his story of how from a young age he was fascinated by dance. He would watch people dance on the TV and try to replicate the steps. Seeing his interest in dance growing, his sister took him to a dance academy near their house when he was 9-years-old. However, he had to lie to his parents saying that he was going for maths tuition.
It was at the age of 13 that Dipesh decided he wanted to pursue ballet after seeing Sophia Lucia, a dance prodigy, perform ballet in a YouTube video. Dipesh’s parents, however, weren’t very supportive. In fact, his father wasn’t supportive at all!
“I couldn’t practice at home because my father would get angry. He would scream at me,” he said.
But that didn’t stop him. Dipesh would practice when his parents were asleep at night or in an empty park.
It was when he was 15 that his parents became more accepting of his choice after he was accepted to Imperial Fernando Ballet Company.
“In the beginning, it was very hard. I didn’t know anyone in Bombay. I wasn’t getting any jobs because I was underage. I couldn’t afford to stay in PGs because they were too expensive. I used to stay with friends when I could. I even slept on platforms on occasions. But I was still happy because I got to dance,” he said.
Dipesh then started making connections by meeting new people and impressing them with his talent. His aim was clear – to represent India in the world of Ballet, professionally.
He later went on to bag scholarships from 6 different esteemed institutes – Maryland Youth Ballet, Nashville Classical Ballet Academy, Ballet Academy East, CPYB Men’s Programme, Australian Ballet School, Berkeley Ballet Theater and Houston Ballet Academy.
However, the scholarships don’t cover his full expenses. But Dipesh hasn’t lost heart. He has set up an online fundraiser to help him cover the rest of the expenses.
Though Dipesh wishes to go abroad to learn Ballet, he doesn’t want to settle there.
“I want to come back to India and be a part of spreading awareness of the ballet world,” he said. “Above all, I just want to keep dancing.”
Dipesh is not just an inspiration for us all to follow our dream unflinchingly but is also breaking some major stereotypes. He isn’t far from having his name etched in the world of dance!