Published: 25th November 2017
Broadway Dance Center faculty member Eric Campros has seen the world but here's why he thinks India is special
Choreographer and dancer Eric John Campros will be in Hyderabad for a workshop. And in a chat, we realise there is so much more to the dancer than his art
Art has the power to empower and uplift and it has manifested itself through yet another individual — Eric John Campros. Being brought up in several foster homes in the US left him with a permanent sense of 'feeling unwanted', even when he was adopted by his godmother, Hazel, at the age of ten. But Campros soon discovered that it was only dance that could negate those feelings of not belonging. "When I was in dance class, I felt I was home, I was wanted, I had value," explains the dancer. Unsurprisingly, the rigour and discipline that dance requires did not come naturally to Campros, who couldn't even touch his toes at first, when he moved to New York. But he was driven by one motive alone, which he still follows today, he says, "I am not willing to settle for a mediocre life, but I am willing to do the work to have the life I want."
Campros has danced on stages all over the world, in films, including the Bollywood film Jaan-e-Mann, and on TV
Now, Campros conducts master classes around the world, taking his next one in Russia. He even started the Brooklyn Dance Festival seven years ago, "a platform for professional dance companies and established choreographers to showcase new and cutting-edge work of diverse styles,” he explains. Prior to his 12-hour intensive certification programme in contemporary and jazz on December 2 and 3 at HY Dance Studios, we get curious and try to find out how Campros, who is also a faculty member at the prestigious Broadway Dance Center in New York, has grown from strength to strength and never plans to stop. Excerpts:
We are dancers; we speak through our bodies and our artistry, and that is my favourite language to speak
Eric John Campros
What are some challenges specific to India when it comes to dancing?
The first time I came to India was one of the most beautiful experiences of my entire life! The raw delicious passion of the dancers I worked with inspires me to this day.
My contemporary style is heavily influenced by ballet and several modern techniques. As these are not widely taught in India at this time, it can be challenging for some students in my classes to pick up certain elements of my style. But that is the joy of teaching; finding 50 different ways to explain the same thing. My primary goal in these workshops is to ensure that every dancer leaves feeling that their artistic voice has been heard, and their possibility discovered.
The most rewarding experience of Campros' career has been that the young dancers he trains are now going on to pursue professional careers
What is your take on Indian classical dance forms?
I am familiar with Kathak and Manipuri, though I am intrigued by many others. I believe they are a necessity to understand the history and culture of the different regions of India. I love that every moment, every seemingly small gesture, head movement, placement of the feet and so on has great meaning. I love that the storytelling is passed on and communicated through the body from grandmother to mother to daughter, generation after generation. I have not studied any at this time, and there is much for me to learn about the meaning behind the colours in the costumes, the bells on their feet and a whole lot more, but I look forward to the opportunity.
Come all: The poster and details of Eric Campro's upcoming workshop in Hyderabad
Tell us something about the Brooklyn Dance Festival...
My partners Tamia Santana, Tracie Stanfield and I started the Brooklyn Dance Festival seven years ago. We produce and curate concerts at the world-famous Brooklyn Academy of Music, and currently, have a residency at the Brooklyn Museum. In April, we will be presenting new work at the Gelsey Kirkland Art Center.
Everyday in this business, dancers and choreographers have to prove themselves all over again. It is exhausting!
Eric John Campros
From a passionate kid to a professional performer to a teacher to now an educator. How would you describe this journey of yours?
This journey has been what I was created to do. There was never another option for me. I went to college, but could not function in any other atmosphere. My greatest love is dance — my best friend, my most beloved confidant, and sometimes, my biggest frustration. I feel closest to God when I am dancing and for this I have infinite gratitude.
Both ways: On some days, Campros has class for 12 hours. On other days he watches TV till noon
Any words of wisdom to budding dancers all over the world?
It is important to remember that the most interesting thing about your dancing is you. The pain you've felt, the joy, the heartbreak, the love and the loss — all of it is valid. Be vulnerable and willing to take risks. Make mistakes knowing that they don't define you as an artist or a human. Give yourself permission to enjoy the process of becoming fully ‘you’, knowing that there will be both good and bad days. Whether dancing for a career or once a month, your voice is valid. Be loud, be confident and speak through your artistry fully, consciously and freely!