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Call Me Dancer

Dakshina is proud to be a fiscal sponsor of “Call Me Dancer.” The film is a labor of love of our good friend and acclaimed dancer Leslie Shampaine. Call Me Dancer is a documentary that follows the journey of an Israeli dance teacher in Mumbai and the students he is inspiring. The film is a story about the joy and painful rigors of dance, its uncertain outcomes and its power to transform.

Please give generously to support the creation of the film. All donations are tax exempt.

A documentary in English, Hebrew & Hindi

A young man from the slums of Mumbai discovers the world of classical ballet at an inner-city dance school. Together with his teacher he will prove to the world that a passion for dance can break many barriers, even those you are born into.

The Story

When 20-year old Manish Chauhan takes his father’s hard-earned money to pay for hip-hop classes at a local Mumbai school, little does he know that he is about to meet a teacher who will change the direction of his life forever. Seventy-year-old Yehuda Maor has just arrived in India to be a part-time ballet teacher. He had a renowned career as a dancer and then became a teacher to ballets greatest stars like Rudolf Nureyev. Yehuda hates the hot, dusty, chaotic life in Mumbai and he is frustrated teaching ballet to students who had never heard of ballet. But he needs the job. One day, on the verge of quitting, he wanders into a hip-hop class and experiences the raw, athletic talent of the students. “These are diamonds in the rough,” he recalls thinking. “I can make dancers out of them. I realized I had been put in India for a reason.”

So begins the story of a young man from the slums who dreams of dancing on the world stage and a teacher who inspires him to fight against the cultural, economic and physical barriers. In windowless basement studios with intermittent electricity, Yehuda trains his protégé. Manish is considered old for this athletic art form but he defies the odds and gets accepted into a top international dance school. But his battles are just beginning. His father is a taxi driver barely able to make ends meet and Manish faces constant pressure to earn money to help support the family. “Dancing is a hobby for rich kids.” his father tells him. Just as he is offered a coveted contract with a European company, he suffers a major setback: an injury that requires surgery and a lot of time to heal—a dancer’s worst nightmare. Can he succeed in the global arena of international dance when only 3% of aspiring students ever become professionals?

Call Me Dancer is a story of hope, heartache and hard work. Together, Manish and Yehuda transform each other’s lives, both searching for happiness in who they are and what they do. Yehuda seeks a purpose and a place to call home. Manish struggles to break free from the confines of his own economic and social circumstances. This is a universal story about the special relationship between teacher and student, and how dance can break down barriers, erase social limitations, and inspire everyone, everywhere to reach for their dreams.

Impact Goals

Call Me Dancer is proud to partner with the Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company to promote our shared belief that dance transcends barriers, traditions and cultures, and is an educational catalyst for social change.

Call Me Dancer will be used to engage the community through screenings designed to educate and inspire people to use dance and other arts programs to create social change. We will partner with organizations, such as MindLeap, that use dance with at-risk youth to help them succeed in school and enter the workplace. We will create companion materials and curricula for organizations that use dance to develop cognitive and social-emotional skills.

About the Filmmakers

Leslie Shampaine has been producing programs for major broadcasters such as PBS, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, CBS and A&E. Her work ranges from documentaries to educational series and includes 8 years as part of the production team for the Emmy award-winning Kennedy Center Honors. Her credits include the PBS series Avoiding Armageddon hosted by Walter Cronkite; Who Betrayed Anne Frank (Discovery Channel) – winner of a Telly, a Cine Golden Eagle and a Gold Remi at the Houston WorldFest; DC Cupcakes (TLC); and Fireworks with George Plimpton (A&E), which was nominated for an Emmy and an ACE.

Before entering television, Leslie had a 13-year professional career as a ballet dancer and worked in the US, Europe, and Israel. She shares her love of dance by volunteering her time to teach movement to seniors in assisted-living facilities.

Pip Gilmour is an award-winning filmmaker with over twenty-five years of experience writing, producing and directing documentaries. Her recent film, Beyond Stonewall was aired and released in conjunction with a major exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History to tell the story of the gay experience in America. The film Minutes to Die: Snakebite, focuses on a vastly ignored global health issue: snakebites, and led the World Health Organization to reclassify snakebite as a neglected tropical disease.

She is an intrepid traveler and her work has taken her from deep inside the jungles of Central America for a PBS series about the Mayans & Incas, to a remote Indonesian island living with a hunter/gatherer family, to the bottom of an Egyptian tomb to discover the real Scorpion King for the History Channel and inside the most dangerous supermax prisons for the Discovery Channel.

For more information:
Leslie Shampaine – lshampaine at gmailDOTcom