Call Me Dancer – Conversation and Performance

Moderator Rina Shah, "Call Me Dancer" producer Leslie Shampaine, was "Call Me Dancer" executive producer Jitin Hingorani, and dancer Manish Chauhan during the panel discussion at Meridian International Center in Washington D.C. on Wednesday Sept. 8, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Malet)


On Wednesday, September 8th, 2021, Meridian partnered with the producers of the upcoming documentary film "Call Me Dancer" to introduce the journey of an Indian ballet dancer trying to break into the professional ballet world. Moderator Rina Shah, producer Leslie Shampaine, executive producer Jitin Hingorani, and ballet dancer Manish Chauhan discussed the challenges faced by dancers in India, the presentation of Indian culture in Western media, and the role of dance in breaking down cultural barriers.

Manish Chauhan, the subject of the film, shared his inspiration to challenge socio-economic barriers and family pressure to pursue a career in professional ballet. While acknowledging the risk he took and his parents’ desire to see him in a “safe” career like engineering or IT, he said “Some people say it is a passion or it gives me purpose, but for me, this is what makes me happy.” Moderator Rina Shah said she was particularly moved when she first heard his story, as she had felt a similar connection studying both ballet and traditional Indian dance as a child of immigrant parents in West Virginia. Leslie Shampaine and Jitin Hingorani spoke about the importance of the film touching on a myriad of topics including ageism, accessibility of the arts, the perception of the arts in Indian society, and the portrayal of South Asian culture in Western media. The panelists were also quick to acknowledge and thank Yehuda Ma'or, the ballet instructor who introduced Chauhan to the world of ballet and first supported his talent and drive.

After the panel discussion, the audience was treated to a demonstration of the tabla by Broto Roy, percussionist, who shared some of the foundational language of the traditional Indian instrument. Chauhan then performed a brief piece arranged by Lucy Bowen McCauley and set to Roy’s tabla composition, in advance of his U.S. debut as a guest soloist with the Bowen-McCauley Dance Company on September 14, 2021.

This program is possible through the generous support of Rina Shah and Dr. Niteesh Bharara, Lori and Paul Carbonneau, Sanjay and Vidya Govil, Barbara Brown Hawthorn, and The Kimsey Foundation.

Dolci Gelati was generously donated by Anastasia and Gianluigi Dellaccio.

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Project summary

Call Me Dancer – Conversation and Performance | September 2021
Number of Attendees: 55
Regions: South and Central Asia
Countries: United States, India, Israel
Impact Areas: Cultural Diplomacy, Education
Program Areas: Culture
Partners: Individuals/Donors, NGOs, Private Sector