The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two can tango and it’s savvy to salsa
- Young and not-so-young queue up to train in yesterday’s dances today

When was the last time you did the salsa or went cha cha cha' With sprawling ballrooms giving way to cramped nightclub floors, chances are a long, long time ago. But if the response to a workshop — to be followed by regular classes — flaunting the dance forms of yesterday is anything to go by, the tango and the jive can score over the bump-and-grind routine, even today.

Calcuttans — young and not-so-young, students and socialites — are recapturing passions from the past at the revamped Padatik Dance Centre. And it’s Sachetan Jalan, 24, who has them dancing to long-forgotten tunes. The son of theatre personality Shyamanand Jalan and his actress-dancer wife Chetna, had trained in marketing and was headed for the US when he decided to take a slight detour.

“I had just returned from a trip to London and Paris, when I was struck by the idea of starting a dance section, showcasing the tango, jive, salsa and cha cha cha at our Centre.” Putting aside his MBA books and unpacking his suitcase, Sachetan mixed marketing and music to draw up the dance module.

As the word spread, the queue started lengthening. At the head of the teen queue was ‘beauty queen’ Sonali Saigal. “I tried out salsa and jive on the first day, and was completely hooked. The dance forms are so graceful that I am sure they will help me when I take up modelling seriously,” says the student of St. Thomas School for Girls.

Twins Rishi and Rashi Sonthaliya, 15, are also gushing about the “new” dance styles. “We liked the tango, which has a lot of grace and speed,” chorus the students of La Martiniere for Boys and Ashok Hall, respectively. “We can’t wait for the workshops to be over and the regular classes to begin.” Their mother Sudha, an entrepreneur, is planning to make it a family affair by signing up for the seniors’ course, probably with her husband.

The Padatik basement has been converted into a giant wooden dance floor with an array of psychedelic lights, ceiling-to-floor mirrors, the works. “To get the basics right, we have engaged the services of Achyut Das and Lama Das to cover a systematic course in Latin American dances and conduct workshops,” says Sachetan.

A visiting faculty, French Salsa dancer Giles Chuyen being the first, will visit Padatik periodically. The workshop has already created a buzz in the city’s socialite circles. Among those taking the steps down to the Padatik basement are businesswomen Madhu Neotia, Preeti Goenka and public relations pioneer Rita Bhimani. “When I heard tequilla playing, my feet just started moving. This should be a great course to pick up some of those lost dance movement,” says Neotia.

Sachetan has kept the initial sessions free, following which eight classes will cost a wannabe around Rs 800. The Padatik team is working on a heady blend of rock ’n’ roll, funk and some stressbusting breathing techniques to create a fun dance routine. Plans for exchange programme with Latin American countries are also afoot.

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