‘Call Me Dancer’ indie Indian film breaks barriers of prejudice in culture and self

Courtesy: Call Me Dancer
Courtesy: Jitin Hingorani

An Open World

Somewhere in the middle of New York Fashion Week on the night before the 20th anniversary of 9/11/2001, Daniel plus Lauren paid a visit to a discussion of a new independent film from India titled “Call Me Dancer”, where a Hip Hop Dancer is forever changed when entering into Ballet by accident.

Courtesy: Jitin Hingorani

The life of a hip-hop dancer from Mumbai is forever changed when he accidentally walks into a ballet class.

Manish is captivated by ballet’s athleticism but doesn’t tell his struggling parents that he has dropped out of school and used their savings to pay for dance classes.

70-year-old Israeli-American Yehuda Ma’or arrives in India to teach ballet at an inner-city dance school after losing his last teaching position.

Courtesy: Jitin Hingorani

He once had a renowned career as a dancer and had been a teacher to ballet’s greatest stars, like Rudolf Nureyev.

Teaching at an inner-city dance school in Mumbai is not what Yehuda is used to – but he needs the job.

When he discovers Manish, he feels like he’s won the lottery.

Courtesy: Jitin Hingorani

Yehuda believes that Manish has the right stuff to dance professionally.

His dedicated student renews Yehuda’s excitement in teaching.

For two years he trains him hard: prodding, cajoling, and encouraging him through 4 classes a day.

But the competition is incredibly daunting.

Only 3% of dance students are invited to join professional companies.

And Manish started late, at the age of 20, when most students have been training since they were small children.

There is a lot of catching up to do – and the odds are further stacked against Manish because of his background.

India has no ballet tradition, and he faces constant pressure to earn money to support his family.

His father is a taxi driver barely able to make ends meet. “Dancing is a hobby for rich kids,” he tells him.

The relatives criticize Manish’s parents, shaming them because their only son isn’t employed.

He is invited to study internationally, a remarkable triumph for Manish and Yehuda.

His career is about to launch when he suffers a major setback: an injury that requires surgery and a lot of time to heal—a dancer’s worst nightmare.

Manish completes rehabilitation from his injury and trains hard in preparation for auditions outside of India.

But the pandemic is upending everything.

Suddenly he has an offer in New York City…but can he take it?

“Call Me Dancer” is a story of hope, heartache, and hard work.

Together, Manish and Yehuda transform each other’s lives, searching to uncover who and what they are.

Yehuda seeks a purpose and a place to call home.

Manish dreams of dancing on the world-stage but struggles to break free from the confines of his own economic and social circumstances.

Directors, Leslie Shampaine and Pip Gilmour, intentions for “Call Me Dancer” are that the arts can change lives and can act as an instrument for erasing boundaries – be it racial, religious, socio-economic or national.

Ballet master Yehuda Ma’or approached me to tell this story because I am a former professional ballet dancer and he knew I would bring an insider’s point of view, sensitivity and understanding to this story.

I wish to convey the passion and inner joy that dancers feel and that allows them to push past pain to become as good as they can be.

I want audiences around the world to be moved by the telling of this story and to appreciate the enormous potential of this athletic art form to bring people together.

You catch the trailer on the highlighted link here for “Call Me Dancer”.

And you can get more information about “Call Me Dancer” through First Hand Films, where you can find ways that you can fund the film.

Also, this article is a collaboration between Daniel plus Lauren and Patricia Ann Parenti.

Daniel Quintanilla & Patricia Ann Parenti

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