Day 5: Mumbai as a Tourist

I was asked to wake up earlier than I wanted to go teach another dance class with Pat, Amber and Tyler. I was not exactly what I wanted to do but what happened in that class was all together a wonderful experience.

We were picked up by a driver and headed into the main area of Mumbai. At one point in the drive our chauffeur took a quick turn into a narrow alley that looked a little questionable. It was a mud road, and amongst other things there was a man washing himself on the street. Then our driver stopped and we saw a sigh that read Shimak Davar Institute of Performing Arts. My first thought was this can’t be it. And then we went inside and were greeted by a beautiful, large, cool studio. Little did we know that were teaching at one of the most famous studios in India.

Our class was amazing! The dancers were so dedicated, energetic, and receptive to what we were teaching. I had the chance to be partners with Anisha, a woman who had been dancing at the studio for 20 years. By the end of class we were laughing and joking around. We had some time to talk to the dancers after and that’s about when we started to realize who we had just taught.

The dancers were all a part of a professional company run by a man named Shimak. This man started a school 25 years ago that brought jazz, contemporary, salsa and other western forms to India. Since then, he has developed his company and a technique, built a non-profit organization, spread his schools across India (as well as England and Canada) and changed Bollywood choreography to represent a more jazz-esque choreography. Wow! Also, his company members are all teachers at his schools.

We were served lunch (wonderful American food with an Indian touch) and were able to talk to the company members more. We also were able to Watch videos of his work. We were all blown away at the broad range of the school and Shimak’s all encompassing ability. As we learned more and more of his accomplishments we also learned something that has stayed with me all day. One of his students said, “He doesn’t look for good dancers, he looks for good human beings. Then he helps them become good dancers.” How amazing! During lunch we also got to meet Master Mozie, a judge on India’s version of So You Think You Can Dance.

We were then driven back to our hotel in a star struck haze. Upon arrival we changed and then got back on a bus to go right back into the main area of Mumbai, this time as tourists. We went to the Gateway to India, a magnificent arch that is near the ocean in which British once entered through during their rule over India. We caused quite the stir from our matching clothes to the point that people were taking pictures of our group instead of he arch.

(This is Mark taking our group photo, along with all the others that decided to join him.)

From the arch, we went to a museum just down the street. The museum building itself was stunning, being built with European and Indian influences. It was full of British and Indian artifacts and stunning art. We had limited time to go through, but Kyle and I enjoyed the additional look into Indian culture.

Afterwards, we had two hours to explore the area. We went to dinner with Sara, Allison, and Aaron at a cute place called Leopold’s Cafe where we enjoyed food styles from all over the world with an Indian twist. Delicious. And then we did a little haggling. I was able to talk the price down on a beautiful silk scarf by more than half of what the man was asking and now have a great gift for someone special. We also haggled down a drum for our collection and a little present for our brothers.

All the while we were being asked for money by the beggars on the street. Many of these people were children or women with children. It broke my heart to see this but we had specifically been asked not to give them anything so we tried to avoid their eyes as we were walking. However, we were told that if we didn’t like what we saw, to pay extra fast offerings or other donations in the church. The reason for this being most of the people begging are doing it because it is their “job”. Someone else is actually getting the money and not much, if any goes to them.

We got home early and got to bed as soon a possible. We then woke up in the middle of the night to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies in London. This left me exhausted for the next day but it was well worth it.

* Though most photos are mine, I did get others from Mark Philbrick, the tour photographer.

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