Be Inspired but Be Yourself - Rohit Jethwani

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1.Tell us more about your background and journey.

My name is Rohit Jethwani and I’m a dancer and choreographer based in Pune, India. My dance journey began about 20 years ago at the age of 4. From a young age, my mom wanted me to be involved in as many extra-curricular activities as possible since she believed in the process of learning outside the classroom.

We signed up for dance, roller skating, karate, elocution, paragliding and even horseback riding to name a few. After a few years of exposing myself to all these activities, dance was the activity I kept coming back to.

In my initial training days, I learned from street dancers in Pune  -- I still remember how I couldn't move my hip left to right. By the age of 9, I enrolled in Shiamak Davar's Institute for Performing Arts.

 Before, I was selected in Shiamak's Showkids and got the opportunity to perform at 30+ shows. I trained at the academy for 6 years where I learned various styles such as Bollywood, Bollyhop, Contemporary, Afro Jazz, and Indo Jazz.

Unfortunately, I had to discontinue my training there because I wanted to pursue higher education at the University of Southern California (USC) and moved to Los Angeles. While at USC, I joined its national award-winning competitive Bollywood Dance team: USC Zeher.

At the time, this collegiate competition was a huge deal in the United States and USC Zeher was amongst the top 10 teams nationwide. I was on the team for 3 years and was elected as captain and male lead dancer in my last year.

Training with a team was a whole different experience compared to training at Shiamak's academy. Here I learned how to be clean and synchronized instead of sticking to my individuality. Our training was comparable to a part-time job due to the amount of hours that we dedicated towards it.

Despite our rigorous coursework at school, our practices would run until late hours of the night and we would probably spend close to 20 hours a week, and maybe even 30 during competition season.

During my tenure as captain and lead dancer, our team won several competitions and I was humbled to break the record for receiving four “Best Male Lead” awards in one season.

Running this team was such a huge pay off because it not only helped me increase my knowledge of dance but it also taught me humility, leadership, how to run a business, how to always be a student and most importantly, it taught me discipline.

I am hereby adding my social media handles:

2. When did you first decide you wanted to pursue Dance and how did you start?

I never believed I could make a sustainable living from dance so I never pursued it as a career originally. Being born into a business family where nobody had ever pursued a career in a creative industry, I thought dance could be a passion I could enjoy only until graduation.

However, during my time at USC, I found a passion for education and I started chasing my dream of building the most epic university that bridges the gap between college and the real world. To gain some experience, I joined a South African based education startup called iXperience.

Though I had the option to move to South Africa, I requested if I could stay in LA and work virtually for the company so I could stay connected to dancing. Amidst this, I was introduced to the world of Instagram and social media around February 2019 and I started posting dance videos.

TO MY SURPRISE, the first two videos that I uploaded went viral! It was such a humbling experience to receive so much love from people all across the world and more importantly to know my art had made an impact on so many people.

I was now convinced that I could pursue dance as my career. I said to myself, my body can move right now and I don’t want to leave this planet knowing I didn’t spend my 20s dancing. In April 2019, I quit my job at iXperience and started teaching Bollywood Dance workshops in Los Angeles.  That’s where my journey began!

3. Who is your favourite Dancer and why?

HRITHIK ROSHAN! He is the reason why I started dancing. I would stand in front of my television and copy his moves from his movies. The ease and swag that he has is so unique and mesmerizing. I don't think I have seen anyone as good as him yet.

He takes a step and when he makes it his own he brings a different flavor to the choreography. Hindi mein kehte hain "choreography pe chaar chaand laga deta hain"

4. Can you throw some light on opportunities one gets as a Dancer?

The opportunities as a dancer are ENDLESS! I think what really matters is what areas of dance someone really wants to explore. For example, my purpose in life has always been to inspire people and create an impact on them.

Based on that, I chose teaching workshops and creating content because I LOVE empowering people to help them grow and I really enjoy the process of creating something from scratch.

Apart from these two, there are multiple opportunities you could get as a dancer like choreographing or dancing for sangeets, stage performances, corporate events, theatre musicals, television advertisement, music videos or even movies., 

5. Is formal training required or can one train themselves purely on the basis of talent?

I believe that formal training does help you better understand technique, body posture, body balance, body movements, and knowledge of the style which eventually helps you become a better dancer.

However, there have been many dancers who have proven to be successful without formal training. Example: Nora Fatehi.

6. What piece of advice would you like to give to future and aspiring artists?

Be inspired BUT BE YOURSELF! YOU ARE YOUR OWN UNIQUE SELLING POINT (USP). The key to success is to find out who you are as an artist. The earlier you find that out, the earlier you can differentiate yourself from others and thrive as an artist.

While it might be financially hard for the first couple of years, don't worry about the money. Have a side hustle to pay bills if you don't have a safety net from your savings or family. Once you focus on creating the most epic art no one has ever created before, the money will follow!

7. Which is your favourite book and why?

My favourite book is " How to Win Friends and Influence people" by Dale Carnegie.

I love this book so much because even being written almost 100 years ago, the theories apply even today. As a dance teacher, one of the biggest skills I need to have is the ability to connect with my students.

Whether it's 10 students or 100 students in a classroom, I need to know how to communicate with them so that they stay engaged throughout the entire class. This book really decodes human behavior and dives into how and why one should communicate to win people over and influence them. 

- Rohit Jethwani

Interview By - Rupali Rawat

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