Photographed by Ravi Nalli
“Am I a rebel? Yes . . . I have my (own) rules and regulations I follow. I don’t follow what regular people do.” How one man altered the course of his life and now inspires change in the lives of others from a dance studio, in India.
How do you journey from being just ordinary to greatness?
Prithviraj “Raj” Ramaswamy’s, founder of Steps Dance Studio in Hyderabad, India, journey began when he saw a local ad for a hip-hop class. What started out as an interest soon developed into a full fledge habit, when Raj realized the classes made him feel happier and healthier. He became enrolled in various classes, almost every night and even began traveling to nearby cities to learn different styles of dance.
With some savings, Raj quit his sales job of five years and started his own consultation business to focus more on dance. Once he’d successfully learned everything he could from his community, he set his sights on New York City to grow more. With the help of a previous teacher, he applied for a VISA, but disaster struck. “September 11th closed embassies all over the world. So my dream got trashed.”
Disaster struck again, eight months later when Raj re-applied for the VISA, and he broke his ankle during rehearsals.
“I was so keen to visit (NYC), I was saving (rupees) and converting it into $100 bills. I even brought boots to use in NYC weather!”
With his dream to visit the U.S. on hold, Raj began to explore what he could establish in his home country. In 2003 he opened the doors of his studio with no experience, in the heavily dominated Bollywood dance community, about one hour away from his home city.
Talk about facing challenges.
“I grew up in a very tough family, so fighting is in my blood. I left my family when I was 18, it’s uncommon (in India).” Raj’s experiences of living on the streets and mixing with the wrong crowds no doubt reflect his innate ability to weather through storms. Dance certainly played a role in that resolve. “When I joined my first dance class I wanted to stop smoking. I got rid of smoking and got a hold of dancing!”
Today, Raj has been teaching dance from his studio for more than 13 years (after two-and-a-half years of hard work his studio became a big success and he finally made it to NYC!). He uses dance to provide corporate workshops and has performed at the request of dignitaries. Through dance, he has witnessed his students achieve fitness, stress release, and even couples gaining a more intimate level of understanding their companion.
Raj is proud that some of his students have moved on to become professional dancers in the U.S. “Ms. Choeetha and Mr. Aswin, not to forget my students who became instructors at my studio, Ms. Anuhuya, and Dr. Madhuri,” he beams.
“I always suggest my students . . . pursue (their) passion along with work, like I did. Even when I started my dance studio in 2003, I always traveled back to my (home) city to do (consultation) services for my clients. I didn’t even tell them I’d moved to a different city because they might think I wouldn’t do backup services!”
Raj also encourages his students to learn from many instructors, different styles to form their own dance styles.
“When you have patience and believe in yourself you can do anything. Follow your heart, not others. When you realize your dream and pursue it the amount of energy and satisfaction is unlimited.”
Raj is continually searching for other dance instructors from every culture to participate in an exchange dance education program he conducts at his studio. If interested, please contact him for further details. To learn more about Raj and his significant accomplishments or to get in touch visit his website at http://www.stepsdanz.com.
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