Dipesh Verma grew up watching dance on his television set at his home in Siliguri in West Bengal.
At first, he would simply copy the moves on screen and try to replicate them. When Dipesh was nine, his sister took him to a dance academy quite close to his house, where he got his first-ever taste of formal dance. But going to the dance class wasn't easy. Dipesh and his sister found a perfect way to veil it by telling their parents that he was going to Math tuition.
It was when he saw Sophia Lucia on Dance Moms do a ballet variation on YouTube that he started exploring the form. In 2012, at the age of 13, he knew that ballet was what he wanted to pursue.
Dipesh's parents, however, weren't very excited about this. In fact, it was quite the contrary. "I couldn't practice at home because my father would get angry. He would scream at me," Dipesh told News18. The young boy would practice at night after his parents fell asleep and often in empty parks.
But the reason Dipesh's father used to get angry is probably something every child growing up in India can probably relate to. "These dreams are not for the middle class." It stemmed from a fear of the unknown - knowing you can't afford to pursue it professionally, knowing that making a career out of it was difficult, and not understanding what exactly ballet is.
In India, ballet is seen as a form of 'western classical' and not as common as Indian dances, like Bharatanatyam, Kathak or Odissi is. It was at age 15 when Dipesh got accepted to Imperial Fernando Ballet Company that his parents let him go for the first time to pursue dance full-time.
After this, other opportunities started opening up for him. But moving out at the age of sixteen was hard for Dipesh.
"In the beginning, it was very hard. I didn't know anyone in Bombay," said Dipesh. "I wasn't getting any jobs because I was underage. I couldn't afford to stay in PGs because they were too expensive. I used to stay with friends when I could. I even slept on platforms on occasions. But I was still happy because I got to dance," he said.
Things started looking better for Dipesh eventually as he met more and more people who he won over with his talent. "There were no Indian male ballet dancers who worked in a ballet company abroad professionally," said Dipesh. "So I wanted to be the first to represent India."
Dipesh currently trains at Danceworx in Mumbai under Israeli American teacher, Yehuda Maor.
Dipesh's dreams started taking shape when he got not one, but six ballet scholarships - Maryland Youth Ballet, Nashville Classical Ballet Academy, Ballet Academy East, CPYB Men's Programme, Australian Ballet School, Berkeley Ballet Theater and Houston Ballet Academy.
But the scholarships do not cover all the expenses. So, Dipesh started a Ketto fundraiser for the remaining of the expenses that the scholarships won't cover. "Living costs, accommodation, flights, expenses aren't covered," said Dipesh.
You can contribute to his Ketto campaign here.
Dipesh doesn't just plan to go abroad and practice there. "I want to come back to India and be a part of spreading awareness of the ballet world," he said. "Above all, I just want to keep dancing."
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