A Rising Ballet Star: Amiruddin Shah


16-year-old Amiruddin Shah has bagged a seat at the esteemed American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York, USA. He now hopes to put India on the cultural map of ballet! Melissa Fernandes traces his journey, right from his humble beginnings.

Born in Sanpada, Mumbai, Amiruddin started his dance journey when he was six years old. His love for dance continued to grow and he joined the Danceworx Academy of Performing Arts, Bandra, Mumbai in 2015 where he focused on jazz and hip-hop. A full-paid scholarship helped fuel his natural talent. 

Mid-year, while auditioning for a show, he was noticed by a ballet master. Amir says, "I was stretching and doing my regular warm-ups during this audition when Yehuda Maor, an Israeli-American ballet master, noticed that my foot had a natural arch, which is important for ballet. He recognised my potential and saw that I had a natural flair for dance. He convinced me to take up ballet lessons with him. My life has changed since then.

Amir soon joined Maor's class and began training in ballet. Since he had to dedicate a lot of his time to learning  ballet, Amir had to drop out of school too. However, he continued studying via home-schooling. Amir adds, "It's been two and a half years since I've started learning ballet from Master Yehuda. I practise for five to six hours a day. During this time, I learn several rigorous techniques. Strangely, I didn't even know this form of dance existed and today I am known as a ballet dancer. Master Yehuda and I don't speak the same language I often don't understand what he wants me to do and I can't tell him many of my issues but dance is our common ground; it breaks all barriers. Ballet is very hard and includes many jumps, landings and turns. Even though I scrape and bruise my feet almost every day, I find the courage and motivation to continue to come back every day. I love this dance form. Ballet has become a major part of my life. Without it, I would have no purpose.

Last year, based on the recommendation of Master Maor, Amir was accepted as a student at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School (ABTJKO) in New York, USA. Maor hopes the training Amir receives here will help him carve a niche in the world of classical ballet. Amir has also been invited to study at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, USA and the Oregon Ballet Theatre School, Portland, USA. 

However, the news of his admission was shadowed by the lack of financial resources. Amir comes from a low-income family. He is the youngest of four brothers and two sisters. His father is a construction worker and his mother is a homemaker. "Ballet is an expensive dance. Master Yehuda has  been bearing the cost of all the ballet requirements till now, but if I have to go to dance school, I need a lot more financial support.

The total cost of Amir's year-long stay, including his tuition fees, residential fees, ballet attire and other expenditures amounts to more than Rs 10 lakh. He will continue his education while pursuing dance with the help of Maor. To help Amir sustain himself, Maor set up a crowdfunding website last year, which has raised almost three-fourths of the expected costs. A few days after setting up the crowdfunding website, Amir received a generous contribution from Yusuf and Farida Hameid Foundation. Mr Hameid is the chairman of Cipla, a pharmaceuticals company, who offered to pay Amir's tuition and residential fees. However, Amir is still raising funds to attend classes outside of ABTJKO and keep up with the costs of living in New York. 

Amir adds, "Daniil Simkin, the principal of ABTJKO, is a Russian ballet dancer. He is my idol and I will strive to become like him. He motivatesand inspires me. I want to become the principal of this school like him and that's how hard I will work. Above all, ballet has taught me to be hardworking. It's essential to hold on to your talent. Only then will you be able to progress in life. Stay inspired and inspire others, as this will fill you up with positive energy.

To support Amir, spread the word and help him collect funds, log on to this website.

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