Dance for life
In the last three years, Alister Gomes has gone from making pocket money to earning a living by doing the same thing- dancing. When he was 6 years old, he learnt the moonwalk on his own after watching the legendary Michael Jackson do it in his Billy Jean video. “When I was around 8 or 9 I started popping. I didn’t even know what it was at the time.”
He however is no regular dance instructor. Not only is Alister Goa’s youngest instructor to start teaching at the age of 17, but he is also Goa’s best hip-hop instructor and that folks is his USP. He proudly tells me that in a little less than three years now, he has instructed about 900 students and is looking forward to adding a hundred more by December this year.
Looking back in 2008 when he first started giving classes Alister says, “I didn’t really advertise about the classes that I planned to conduct. All I did was send out 15-20 flyers around the village (Siolim). And I honestly didn’t expect anyone to come but by the end of the first day of class 17 students walked out,” he beams.
Since then his academy ‘Dance for Life’ has seen people of as young as 3 years to as old as 68 come to learn, different styles like ballroom and latin but mostly hip-hop.
“I started off teaching on my own, but when I established the name Dance for Life (DFL) and took things into high gear, I found that it was necessary to hire instructors, with the kind of response I’ve been getting.” Today three instructors work with him to train their students. Alister claims that DFL is the only crew in Goa to teach 24 dance styles. “We also believe in theory, it’s not just all about dance. We keep the students informed about what each step or style is called and its origin.”
The crew themselves practice four times a week. They were fortunate to have been selected to perform on Bindaas’ Street Dance television programme. And they are also the only crew from Goa who have been featured on international television for the Afro-Asian Cricket Cup last year in Hyderabad. “We were seen in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Sri Lanka, among a few other places,” Alister recollects.
The success has been great for these youngsters in the last three years. “Choosing dance as a career is the best decision I’ve made. My parents have always been there for me. I mean, besides giving lessons at Tito’s I also undertake classes at home and I’m really thankful to my parents for letting me fulfill this dream of mine. Financially, I am quite happy with the way things have been going for me right from the beginning. I bought my own bike while I was still in college- which I think is quite an achievement for a college student- now I can even pay salaries, and I haven’t even turned 21,” he exclaims laughingly.
However the challenge itself lies in teaching an urban style of dance. “People in Goa have started appreciating hip-hop more no doubt, but there is still a high demand for Bollywood numbers when it comes to performing for shows.”
As for competition, well you can imagine. “We already have very talented and already established household names in Goa that are synonymous with dance. And although we’re relatively new, I think it’s important to realise that we’re creating our own niche here and not looking to compete really. I believe in just giving it our best, having high morale within the crew and in helping each other grow. I think that defines our success. I’ve seen hip-hop crews around India and I feel blessed to be with these guys.”
And his crew feels the same about him. While in conversation I couldn’t help but notice how his phone rang endlessly.