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Chance pe dance

Five-time Boogie Woogie winner Rohan Rokade tells JAM about his journey from starving struggler to upcoming choreographer

Rohan Rokade started dancing when he was 11. And he never stopped. Now, at 29, Rokade can be called the pied-piper of Nallasopara, for he has infused the passion of dance into the hearts of hundreds living in the distant Mumbai suburb.

The journey, however, wasn’t easy. The roadblocks make it a story worth telling. Rokade comes from a middle-class family and his parents wanted him to study hotel management. But driven by his frenzy for dance, he gave up academics.

But living in Nallasopara meant a lack of training opportunities and starting out in the early ‘90s meant very little exposure to dancing (no cable, no YouTube). Most people in his situation would have cribbed about the lack of proper exposure to nurture their passion. But Rokade refused to give up. “Kids today get what they want. They have immediate access to the Internet, there is a dance class at every corner and video recordings of famous dancers are easily available. But it was different when I started out. I was fascinated by the dance videos of Michael Jackson and MC Hammer. But at that time, I did not have the money even for a cable connection; forget having the money to join a dance class! I used to watch them at my friend’s place. I would hire a VCR and video tapes of TV shows to learn dance. I worked part-time and got the money to buy those tapes,” he says with a sense of pride.

Rokade began his career when he was only 20. “There was a time when I hardly got food to eat!” But sheer passion and grit kept him going even when he was starving.

“I waited for five years to audition for Boogie Woogie. I lost the contest in 2000 and I was really nervous then. However, at the age of 24, I auditioned before choreographer Rajiv Surti and that was the real start of my career,” he recalls.

Rokade today has not only mastered several dance forms like hip-hop, folk, contemporary, salsa and Bollywood, but has also built up a team of 12 members comprising of two of his nephews and their friends. Together, they started having dance sessions on his terrace and then at Kanchan High School Hall, Nallasopara, where they still continue.

The middle-class family background that they all share has just strengthened their bonds. “Since all of us are from middle-class families, we understand each other’s feelings. Discipline is something that keeps my team together. The oodles of craziness and passion that we all possess keep the spirit of our team alive,” he says.
Rokade has only grown from strength to strength with time. From winning Boogie Woogie five times to being finalists at the India’s Got Talent, from assisting renowned choreographers to travelling round the world with celebrities, Rohan’s dream seems to be metamorphosing slowly but steadily. He will also release of his own music video, Kabhi Up Kabhi Down, early this year.

Rokade, however, is reticent when asked about his parents’ take on his hobby-turned-profession. He just smiles and says, “Sorry! No comments!” He adds, “It’s a request to every parent to motivate their child to do whatever he/she is interested in. Nowadays, it is very easy to be famous. One can come on channels without doing anything. And my message to the youngsters is to work hard and not opt for the easy way out.”

Want to dance to his tunes?
Rokade charges Rs 2,000 for a basic course, Rs 2,500 for an intermediate course and Rs 3,000 for the advanced level. You can call him on 9860117374.

– Priya Chaphekar

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