Four years ago, the first class made him uncomfortable — an alien dance form, rich kids all around, those sleek uniforms and shoes… The then sixteen-year-old Kamal Singh, son of an e-rickshaw driver could not wait for it to get over. But the teacher, Fernando Aguilera, director of a ballet school and company in New Delhi knew immediately there was something special about the young boy.
If you think this is straight out of the film ‘Yeh Ballet’, you are right.
Recently, when The English National Ballet School of London, England, sent an invitation, offering him a place in their one-year Professional Trainee Programme, he just could not believe it. It was both great and sad news. “That was the happiest day for me. But the fee — eight thousand pounds and living expenses in London to the tune of a thousand pounds per month, how could I even think of affording that?” he tells IANS.
For someone who wants to see himself in ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, a modern day fairy tale unfolded soon. When his teacher started a crowdfunding campaign for Rs 15 lakh on Ketto on September 1, he had no idea that by September 16, the entire fund would be raised, with actor Hritik Roshan contributing Rupees six lakhs, becoming the biggest donor from India.
The shy 20-year-old smiles, “I still can’t forget the initial years, those moments when you are inching closer to your dreams but terrified of everything evaporating in minutes, despite all the hard work. I come from a family where my father earned Rs 300 a day, there were times when there was not enough to have a meal at night.”
Attributing his success to Aguilera, originally from Argentina, who came to India 23 years back, the dancer says that it was only after the teacher offered him a scholarship, promised to take care of his transportation and uniform expenses that he could seriously think of joining regular classes. “Otherwise how could I pay the institute’s fee? It would take me more than one hour one way to travel from my home in Vikas Vihar to the institute in Saket.”
Excited that after the year’s training in London, he would have the chance to a to enter the English National Ballet Company, as a professional dancer on a monthly salary, Singh says that initially it did take some effort to convince his father to let him concentrate on dance. “And Aguilera helped there too. He met my father and told him that I had the potential to become a professional and dream of a better life. Of course, the fact that money was a constant problem at home kept bothering me,” remembers Singh who has two siblings.
A student of the Government Boys Senior Secondary School in Vikaspuri, he has been staying at his teacher’s house ever since the lockdown was clamped. “He did not want my training to suffer, so invited me to stay at his place. You know whenever I thank him for all he has done for me, he just tells me to keep quiet.”
Fernando Aguilera makes it clear that it was tough to ignore Singh’s natural flexibility and flair, even during the warm-up session of the first class. “And as the classes progressed, I was smitten by his commitment and discipline. Honestly, discipline is the key here. He would keep smiling even if I told him to repeat a step hundred times, which happened often,” he tells.
The teacher, whose 12 students have now joined professional ballet companies across the world and several more are instructors, insists that despite all the hurdles, Singh refused to quit. “The financial background of his family, the problems with English…. there were many, but the point is, he overcame all. And yes, he did not run away because I am strict,” he laughs.