Terence Lewis has come a long way since he first appeared on the Indian dance scene. A master of contemporary dance form, he runs his own academy, the Terence Lewis Contemporary Dance Company [TLCDC]. In an interview with Manoj Khatri, Terence opens his heart out on what dancing means to him, and how it makes him feel closer to God. Excerpts…
When did you realize that dancing is what you wanted to do?
Terence Lewis: From the tender age of five itself, I knew it. I loved to dance and entertain people; I liked to see the happy faces of my family every time I would break in to an act. As a child, I picked up most of my dancing from watching dance moves on television.
You met with a lot of obstacles before you finally tasted success. What kept you going in those years?
Terence Lewis: My own inner strength kept me going. I faced hardships from very early on in life, but I think they were a blessing, disguised as challenges. They taught me to rely only on myself, be it financially or emotionally. Later, as my team of dancers and my creative team grew, they took my dream to an altogether new level. They too had similar goals as I. They are the true heroes who helped me realize my dream of making dance education accessible under one roof in Mumbai and also spread awareness about Contemporary dance.
Besides dancing, in what way do you love to express yourself?
Terence Lewis: Any form of art is a canvas for me to express myself… whether it is writing, acting, decorating or designing. I would say I am an artist in the true sense. But in whatever I do, I strive to excel, nothing about me is mediocre. And I cannot tolerate mediocrity even in others.
In dance reality shows, does it ever happen that competition kills creativity?
Terence Lewis: Well, it all depends on how the participant looks at it. When it is taken to an extreme where one is only focusing on winning, based on what the audience or judges want to see, then creativity could be marred. Yet, if you focus on the art and take competition in the correct sense, knowing that it is a challenge, creativity gets heightened.
Who is your inspiration?
Terence Lewis: I am inspired by almost anyone who is honest, hardworking and has a dream that he or she wants to see realized.
What are the values that you cherish most in life?
Terence Lewis: A never-give-up attitude is what I cherish the most. In addition, honesty and forgiveness are values that rate high on my list.
With your experience of being a mentor and teacher to many aspiring dancers, what qualities are essential for any teacher?
Terence Lewis: As a teacher, one has to be humble. You can never compete with your own students, no matter how good they may be. In the process, every teacher also learns something from his or her own students. It is always a give and take relationship.
Can you tell us about the tattoo you sport on your chest?
Terence Lewis: It’s a Sanskrit shloka. It’s about invoking the God within, to help one move from unreal to real, from darkness to light and from mortality to immortality.
Dancing is said to be the closest metaphor to God. Your view on this?
Terence Lewis: Every time I am moved by a performance or a piece of art, I see God in it. God is in the details and only a person who is close to God can bring out the finest points and the finest detailing. Dance unifies the dancer with the Universe… the Maker. When we give a performance that touches another soul, you know it is God’s message being conveyed to us.
What do you do when you’re feeling low, sad or angry?
Would you say you have discovered your life’s purpose?
Terence Lewis: I think we are constantly changing and evolving as a race. As we walk our paths, we seek to fulfil different purposes in our lifetime. For me, the search continues…
Finally, what are the lessons that dance has taught you?
Terence Lewis: When you dance, especially contemporary dance, in a way, you’re telling the world your story. And remember, body movements don’t lie. If you are tired, it shows. When you are exuberant, it shows. Like they say… Yeh joh public hai yeh sab jaanti hai (Public knows everything).
Dance has taught me humility, as a dancer or an artist, we learn that only through practice and perseverance can one excel in his or her art. And yet if you want people to notice your art, you need the best marketing and sales manager (smiles).
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