BY | March 2, 2013

By Radhika Bhirani

New Delhi, Reality TV shows are here to stay as are the many dance and music schools mushrooming across towns and cities, but online could be the next growth area. Ask choreographer Ashley Lobo, who believes the online medium is a cheap and effective way to reach talent in a country as vast and varied as India.

Composer Shankar Mahadevan launched an online music academy in 2011 and Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit recently announced her own web dance academy. The trend is positive, says Lobo, adding that the market is ripe for any such projects.

Lobo, who runs a network of dancing schools, however says he needs time before he himself forays into it.

“A person in a small town is hungry to learn, and I feel they draw much more. So for me, the digital space is a great platform to reach out to such people. I am not sure if I am ready right now, but the market is 100 percent ready,” Lobo told IANS.

“I have had a lot of offers for that. To do something like that will require me to devote a certain amount of time… Right now I am not yet ready to put that kind of time to give correct content for the digital space.

“But the idea works in terms of giving more exposure to smaller towns. They have no way to get exposure to the kind of work that I do. For that, they either have to travel or sometimes, people may not be able to afford the fee. But it works out cheaper if they just do a download,” he added.

Online talent schools would typically get subscribers who would log on for classes.

Almost 15 years after establishing his own academy and working in the dance industry, including choreographing sequences in films like “Dhoom”, “Aisha” and “Guzaarish”, Lobo is now ready for his foray into the TV industry. He has signed up as the judge of Star Plus’ “India’s Dancing Superstar” that will bring dancers, irrespective of age and style, on one stage.

These platforms, he said, have helped in making performing arts a safe career option – a luxury he never enjoyed as a youngster.

“Reality shows are platforming talent. They give talent an exposure, and talent of any kind! A reality show can give a person confidence, exposure, expression; and, more than anything else, it is making performing arts a very viable option,” said Lobo.

“I think that’s great, because when I was growing up, I never had performing arts as a viable option. These are great times for dance. And this period is what I would dream of when I was 17 or 18,” added the founder and artistic director of The Danceworx, which has over 5,000 students, 60 teachers and 15 studios in New Delhi and Mumbai.

Back in 1989, Lobo had to travel all the way to Australia, where he studied dance at the Bodenweiser Dance Centre and the Sydney Dance Company. He trained in classical ballet, jazz, funk and contemporary styles of dance for over five years and performed in several musicals.

“I had to go to Australia to do dance because it wasn’t a viable vocation here. It was a very tough thing to ask my father to pay for it, even if I was paying him back for it within 10 months,” he added.

Given that shows like “Boogie Woogie”, “Dance India Dance”, “Just Dance”, “India’s Got Talent”, “Dancing Queen”, “Dance Premier League”, “Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa” and “Nach Baliye” have come and gone and come back, isn’t there an overdose?

“One can see it as an overdose or one could see it as what you’re getting out of it. On the face of it, it could look like an overdose, but if one looks closely, each one is different and highlights different things. ‘India’s Dancing Superstar’ is highlighting a dancer, not the dance.

“It is highlighting originality, out-of-the-box thinking, and it is platforming anybody with expertise in any dance form. For me, it will be a mela (fair) of dance, and I am going to love it” he said.

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