When we think of ballet what strikes our minds are the soft pastel tutus, grand stage backdrops, and dancers moving effortlessly scene after scene performing plays like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or even Black Swan. The early encounter with ballet included watching the dance form in movies and to say the least, it left us all enthralled. But hardly any one of us thought of learning ballet not only as a means to pursue passion but also to make it a profession. With so many classical Indian dance forms none of us ever imagined that ballet would create its own space in our lives.
Ballet is aesthetically stunning and is one of the most rigorous dance forms often dismissed as elitist in India. But it was the perseverance of ballerina Yana Lewis who not only teaches ballet but also strives to break this stereotype attached to the form, one pirouette at a time.
Living the dancing dream
In 1998, danseuse Yana Lewis arrived from London to attend her Yoga guru BKS Iyengar’s 80th birthday. Since then India has become her home and she now resides in Bengaluru where she brushes the city with hues of ballet. During her stay, she travelled from Kanyakumari to Ladakh and explored the various Indian classical dance forms. After looking at what was termed as western dance, she was more than convinced to stay back and teach India how to ballet.
Yana says that ballet is the basis of all western dance forms and what was being taught in India in the name of it was nowhere in comparison to what was taught in the west. She chose to stay and correct it rather than complain. Initially she conducted several workshops for Indian classical dancers on injury prevention and the 18 common points that were common between the two. In 2006, she founded The Lewis Foundation in 2006 in Bengaluru along with Devang Bhanushali and has trained several aspiring dancers since then.
In her career of 40 years she has also worked along students with special abilities and socio-economic backgrounds as she believes that dance is for everyone. She wishes to share the love of dance and love of ballet. A trained ballerina, Yana started dancing at the age of two and has not missed a beat since then. She has worked as a ballet teacher, performer and choreographer across borders. Over decades, Yana has developed her own signature style that brings together safety, strength, and vitality.
Ruling en pointe and more
Yana has choreographed for and featured in music videos for Elton John, Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, and Ray Parker Junior. She performed on many BBC programmes and staged a dance-a-thon for the Children in Need appeal. Her choreography has featured on multiple TV channels, and award ceremonies around India. She is known for her roles in several ballets and reinstates that she is always learning.
She believes that if anyone has a passion or a dream, all that has to be done is to begin. The path opens up and one always finds the right support that is needed to fulfil the dream.