Delhi-born, Kamal Singh has become the first Indian dancer to win a place on the English National Ballet School’s professional trainee programme at the age of 17.
Now resident in Chelsea, London, a world away from his home in Vikaspuri in Delhi – Singh finds himself masked and socially distanced, training in a dance studio in Battersea with 12 other students at the English National Ballet School.
In a feature by the BBC, BritAsia TV have learned the students share the dream of joining a major international ballet company and to tread in the footsteps of Nureyev and Fonteyn.
The article said for Kamal, none of it would have been possible without the support of his teacher, Argentine dancer Fernando Aguilera – and a “dusting of Bollywood star power.”
“When I heard I had got a place at the English National Ballet school I was so happy, but at the same time, I was a little sad because I knew my father could not pay the fees,” said Kamal.
“But my teacher tells me not to worry about the money, to just focus on the ballet – and dance.”
From the moment Kamal walked into one of his free trial classes at the Imperial Fernando Ballet Company in Delhi, Aguilera knew he had discovered an exceptional talent.
“But the teenager could not afford to study ballet,” said the BBC. “His home was two hours away from the ballet school. His father works two jobs, and all hours, to support his family. Luxuries – like ballet tuition – were not an option.”
So it fell to Aguilera to convince Kamal’s parents – and find a way forward. Over three intense years of training, he provided Kamal with free tuition, a room in his home in Delhi and, ultimately, helped raise the fees that would allow Kamal to travel to London to take up his place at the prestigious English National Ballet school.
Fees for the year-long course at the ballet school cost £8,000, not least living expenses. So the pair turned to crowdfunding.
Their chosen crowdfunding platform, Ketto, was co-founded by Bollywood actor Kunal Kapoor, who used his star influence and social network on the young dancer’s behalf. It prompted friend and fellow Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan to pledge £3,200 to the fund.
Kamal Singh is a 20-year old ballet dancer from Vikaspuri, Delhi who discovered ballet just 4 years back. He comes from a very humble background, his father is an e-rickshaw driver and he attended the local government boys school.. contd pic.twitter.com/L4tTAQB2CY
— Kunal Kapoor (@kapoorkkunal) September 16, 2020
Until now, international Indian ballet stars have been scarce.
“Talent sometimes can be hidden in places where you never think of,” said Viviana Durante, a former principal dancer with the Royal Ballet and artistic director at the English National Ballet School.
She selected Kamal for the programme – based solely on his online application – and has been impressed by his focus and versatility in class.
“Indian dancing is actually quite close to classical ballet – in the way they express themselves with their hands, and their upper body and their arms,” she said.
“It’s up to us to make ballet more available to other cultures, to educate them and embrace them into our world. You need dancers who bring their own stories, their own culture – it makes it exciting.”
“Dance is a language that we all speak. Money should not come into it.”
To read the BBC’s full feature, click here.