Tag Archives: Dance

Performer Shreya Rawat’s Pursuit of Creative Expression

Performer Shreya Rawat shot by Natalie Leinbach

Performer Shreya Rawat is an ethereal maverick, one whose free-thinking, far reaching style combines discipline and dedication with a seeker’s visionary, intuitive drive. This unconventional yet boundlessly appealing mixture has served Rawat well and allowed her to assert a formidable presence within the fast-moving modern dance/theater world. 

The New Delhi-born, NYC-based Rawat’s creative regimen includes simultaneous membership in three dance companies and appearances in theatrical, film and video projects. She also serves as a choreographer and educator and, as if all these weren’t enough, takes classes to perfect dance styles more frequently seen in the commercial dance industry.

This kaleidoscopic, a hectic menu of artistic pursuit, played out against the backdrop of the audition process’ cutthroat competition, requires intense focus and drive—qualities which are second nature to this exceptional talent.

“I dance professionally with Gotham Dance Theater, Ajna Dance Company and I’m also a part of Heartbreak Crew Company, a hip-hop crew based out of the Bronx,” Rawat said.

“I am usually involved in 2-3 projects at the same time. This year has been one of the busiest—I was performing on the Summer Suite Tour with Gotham Dance Theater along with doing shows with Ajna Dance Company. Simultaneously I was also in rehearsals for performance with my hip-hop crew.”

Shreya Rawat shot by Natalie Leinbach

This high energy, holistic approach has been a lifelong modus operandi. As a teenager, Rawat characteristically combined artistry and athletics: a competitive swimmer ranked at national level, she was also captain and principal soloist of her high school’s nationally recognized, award-winning dance troupe. 

She attended Delhi’s acclaimed DanceworX Performing Arts Academy, studying contemporary dance, jazz and ballet and performing with the academy’s Senior Repertoire Company. In the US, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance degree from Pennsylvania‘s Point Park University and headed to New York to fire up her professional career as a performer.

It didn’t take long—an early audition for a supporting chorus part in contemporary stage musical How I Almost Died at Prom resulted in her being cast as the show’s lead. That pretty much set the tone for the Rawat career, and her star turn in the well-received production was followed by a flurry of opportunities: ensemble performance at festivals, showcases, music videos—appearing in legendary pop singer Madonna’s “Hung Up” clip and as principal dancer in emerging modern R&B sensation Alex Mali’s “Album Mode” video. 

“I absolutely loved working with Alex Mali,” Rawat said. “I saw the audition call on Instagram and submitted for it right away. I got called back and confirmed it the same day and I was in! The whole process was so fun, It really didn’t feel like work.”

It’s a demanding life but Rawat relishes every minute.

Shreya Rawat shot by Natalie Leinbach

“I start my day early, around 6 am in the morning,” she said. “I go to the gym 3 days a week and do my home-based workout the other days. I have all my classes that I teach lined up in the mornings and/or early afternoons, after which I head to rehearsals. They’re usually 2-5 hours depending on the company and their schedules leading up to the show. If we’re doing shows, we usually rehearse in the morning and perform in the evening. Amidst all this, I maintain my professional training by taking commercial classes at studios in Manhattan, which is also a great way to make connections with people that work in the commercial industry. 

On top of all this, there’s the challenge of memorizing choreography for three separate, entirely different, dance productions.

“It’s not easy but is definitely a skill that has matured over time,” Rawat said. “But it wasn’t always like this. When you perform a set often, especially on tour, after a couple of times it becomes muscle memory. So, the only thing that changes constantly is the staging of the set because of the different venues you perform in.  I am grateful to have a lot of experience that helps me adapt to staging changes.”

Rawat’s drive for creative expression is as prodigious as her skill set is diversified.

“I choreographed and produced a piece called Pathos,” she said. “It’s a 6 min post- modern piece which was staged and performed at George Rowland White Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I cast, choreographed, staged and produced the whole piece myself. It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my career thus far because it opened a whole new aspect of artistic expression for me.”

Rawat’s layered mastery of all these disciplines constitutes a remarkable spectrum of capability, and she is consistently striving to enhance and expand her repertoire of innovative artistry.

“Growth is constant—that’s definitely my motto,” she said. “I try to always enter every project with the expectation of learning something new, whether good or bad, and that really helps me grow as an artist and a person.”


Pauler Lam talks dancing on ‘Steady Mobbin’ and pursuing what makes him happy

It doesn’t feel like that long ago for Pauler Lam that he was working a 9-to-5 in the corporate world. He found that each day sitting behind his desk ate away at his soul. He was working for a pay check, but it wasn’t what made him happy. Then, five years ago, he decided to take his hobby of dancing, which he spent 16 years training for, and transform it into his full-time career. Immediately, he felt a shift in his outlook on life. He was happy, doing what he truly loved. This joy he feels from dancing is contagious, and those who watch him perform, whether live or on television, feel it too.

With an impressive career working on television commercials, Buzzfeed videos, live performances, and various television shows, Lam has become a sought-after Breakdance and Hip-Hop dancer. Originally from Australia, he has taken the American dance industry by storm, and recently was the principle dancer in two national commercial campaigns: one for Hotel Indigo, and the other for American Crew. In both instances, his talents as a dancer and performer are enthralling, grabbing audiences’ attention around the country.

“I am a very driven person who only does what I know will ultimately make me happy and allow me to bring others joy and in turn, give back to the universe. This for me is dance,” said Lam.

One of Lam’s first breakout professional dance roles in the United States was on the television show Steady Mobbin. The series highlights diverse groups of dancers performing various flash mob styles in major cities, empowering the audience to bring out their inner dancer. The surprise element of the flash mob serves as a reminder that art, in this case dance, is all around us in everyday life.

“I loved that the show was about dance. The dancers were the star of the show, not just in the background. The producers understood how important and amazing dancers are and wanted to put us in the spotlight,” said Lam.

The production on the show began in September 2015. In that first season, Lam was featured in episodes 3, 4, 5 and 6. Each episode took a week to film, including rehearsals. Steady Mobbin premiered on The Dance Network both in the United States and worldwide in February of 2016.

As well as being a principle dancer, Lam was also given a feature in an episode where he was interviewed. He was able to explain his background in dance and provide his back story to the viewers. He also had a solo dance moment where he was able to showcase his breakdancing skills.

“It feels amazing to know that people everywhere are able to see me do what I love. It is great exposure for myself as a performer and entertainer in the dance industry. I truly feel blessed to be able to be a professional dancer and the fact that I can do it for a living and put my work out there for the whole world to see is indescribable,” he said.

When Lam first went to audition, he made an error that he now considers to be his saving grace. At the time, he had misread the audition details and went to the venue a day early. No one was there. and it made him very feel very inexperienced as he was new to the industry in those days. However, his mistake actually helped with his nerves, and when he returned the next day all of the initial fear he felt the day before had vanished; he had time to settle down and laugh at himself. When he came back the next day and auditioned, he impressed the Director, Aaron Mostow, as well as the well-known dancer/choreographer Suze Q (known for dancing with the celebrated pop group The Black Eyed Peas) who was running the auditions. While performing, Lam displayed his vast skill and versatility. It was only a week later when he was booked for lead role in the show.

Quickly noticed during the audition process for his unique ability to perform hip-hop choreography as well as bust out exceptional breakdance moves, Lam was essential in the creation process of each episode. In order for the choreography pieces to have a dynamic and recognizable moment, he was frequently featured doing a flip or a trick for the episode’s “wow moment”, keeping the audience captivated. Usually a Bboy would not do the choreography and stick simply to breakdancing, but Lam was able to do it all and help create flawless pieces and smooth transitions for the choreography, and ultimately, the show’s success.

“Pauler is one of the most skilled and versatile dancers I’ve ever come across. He can do Hip Hop choreography and breakdance. That’s a very rare thing for a Bboy to be able to do choreography too. So, I knew right away after seeing him at the audition that he would be perfect for my show. We featured him on an episode and he absolutely killed it in his solo with his crazy tricks and flips. He was so easy and fun to work with and I would love to work with him again,” said Director Aaron Mostow.

Because the show focused on dance, and everyone involved had dance experience, Lam was eager to be part of this experience as one of the first major projects of his career. While on set, he made sure to stay focused, adapt easily, and be professional. Despite the challenge of having to learn many pieces of choreography in a short time frame, with cameras pointed at him and producers watching, Lam shone in each number. Working on the show truly exposed him to working under pressure, something that is common in the industry, and he quickly learned how to excel under such conditions.

“I am, and will always be, very grateful for this opportunity. The other dancers on the show were really fun to work with. Everyone was happy to be in rehearsal and on shoot days. I made some of my first proper LA friends from this show and am proud to still be good friends with them today. I was able to showcase my skills and versatility as a dancer for the first time in the Los Angeles dance industry. I’ve come a long way since then and will continue to push and grow further as a performer. And a special shout-out to Suze Q, Aaron Mostow and all the other dancers from Steady Mobbin,” said Lam.

Being able to showcase his skill on television earlier on in his career opened many doors for Lam, and he is extremely humbled by the experience. Since being on the show, he has become an in-demand dancer in America, with no plans on slowing down. His journey reaffirms that pursuing his dreams full-time was the right choice, and he has never looked back.

I know that this is what I am meant to be doing and truly believe that I am in the right place. I will continue to push myself in this industry to achieve all of my dreams and be the best and happiest version of myself that I can be,” he concluded.

Maria Akpan ‘intoxicates’ audiences with dancing talents

Maria Akpan

Moving to music is an instinct for Maria Akpan. She always felt the need to dance, and her inspirations as a child were always those who were known around the world for their dancing abilities. Akpan is now recognized for her talent, and is one of Britain’s best dancers. She does not just follow a beat, she uses her body to tell a story. Her delivery captivates audiences, and there is little doubt why she is in such high demand.

The highlight of Akpan’s career came when honoring her idol Michael Jackson. As the lead dancer in Thriller Live, Akpan took audiences through the iconic artist’s childhood, career, and life journey. Her skillset enhanced the show, and she was pivotal to its success, as she was in every single number.

Tribute shows are now a familiar experience for the dancer. She was not only the lead dancer, but also the choreographer for Prince’s Revelation Tribute Show. Working with the popular singer Mark Anthony, she choreographed the entire performance. Dancing was the true visual essence of the show, and Akpan made that happen.

Not only does Akpan dance, but she also can cheerlead. She had a main role with the group The London Cheerleaders, always front and centre in their routines and promotional videos. Her talent and commitment to every project she takes on make her extremely sought after in the industry. She was the choreographer and lead dancer in the Funky Twinz featuring N. Kay music video “Entertain You”, and she even worked with Shirlene Quigly, a former dancer for both Beyonce and Rihanna.

“Dance allows me to express myself in ways that conversations never do. Dance is something the makes me happy even at some of my saddest moments. It really does bring joy and freedom into my life,” said Akpan.

In JayEss’ “Intoxicated” music video, Akpan was once again featured doing what she does best: dancing. She was a lead dancer in the video, and had a charismatic solo piece. The dancing brought the storyline of the song to life. The video features different groups battling and then eventually coming together as a whole.

“What was it liked about working on this project was it got me to be creatively experimental, which is great when your hired as just a soloist on a gig, as it gets you to think on your feet and be more original,” said Akpan.

Originally, Jayess had heard of Akpan’s esteemed reputation and knew he wanted her on his video. At the time, he did not know how to get in touch with her, and spent a lot of time searching. After giving up, he eventually spotted Akpan at a talent search. He was ecstatic to finally find her. Akpan did not even have to audition. The entire team was impressed with her from the beginning.

“Maria is such a hard-working talent, she never settles for anything average and always wants more than 100 per cent. Her passion for arts and dance is like no other that I have ever seen before, and her hard work shows through in her work. Working with her, I know my vision of my song and music video was in the best and right hands. Maria is definitely unique, I would have her work for me again in no time,” said Jablil Saheeb, also known as Jayess.

Akpan was a large part of the video’s success, which has over 40,000 views on YouTube alone. Akpan was consistently approached about her dancing in the video, and she felt proud to be in such a project. She brought Jayess’ version to life, as he wanted much more than just a normal music video. Akpan came up with original choreography on the spot, and danced completely alone for a part of the video.

Each dancer was given a different trait to embody in the video, and Akpan was given “peace”. With every move she made, she exudes that trait in a peaceful and powerful way. There was no rehearsal time, so Akpan just did what came naturally. The results are inspiring.

“After hearing the concept of the music video, I knew I am wanted to be apart. Two groups one driven by negativity and the other driven by positivity. The two groups battling each other than overcoming their differences for the better, completely pulled me in,” concluded Akpan.

Akpan is now fresh off many projects. She danced for Skepta at the 02 in London. She also was a part of Global 12 Festival, dancing for new soloist Kiara Marzella. In addition, she is taking her successful London dance class “#LinesNsaucewithmimi” international.

“I plan to take this class all over the world and inspire young women to believe in themselves, to achieve what they dream of, and to then succeed,” she said.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Akpan is the “Intoxicated” video here.