Mastering the craft over the last 7 years, Bharat Verma is India’s first body percussionist and an internationally acclaimed choreographer. Founder and Director of Heartbeators Dance Studio, Bharat recently performed in the third season of The Voice India – AR Rahman’s reality talent competition. During the show, Bharat’s performance gained such admiration that coach Adnan Sami attempted body percussion while AR Rahman played the piano. It was at that moment that India witnessed its first body percussionist. His perseverance and dedication to his craft have been instrumental in pushing him to the limelight, despite all odds. With his sheer determination, Bharat became the first Indian to introduce body percussion to the subcontinent through YouTube and other social media platforms. His mental strength comes from the immense adversities he tackled early in his life.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview where Bharat unfolded his journey and future plans with HelloPost Team:
Tell us something about yourself and Heartbeators?
I am the Founder and Director of Heartbeators Dance Studio, an internationally acclaimed choreographer, and India’s first body percussionist. My vision is to share my understanding of various dance forms to people belonging to all age groups and backgrounds. Through Heartbeators, I want to nurture my own twist of body percussion in India and form a unique dance culture for both the young and the old to participate in and appreciate.
Having mastered the trade after rigorous practice and perseverance, I performed in venues such as the Lincoln Centre and Kaatsban International Dance Centre at the Big Apple. Another humbling moment in my career was when I represented India and performed in the 2018 Youth Assembly organized by United Nations Friendship Ambassador Organisation in their New York headquarters.
I have also choreographed for the Bollywood movie Lucknow Central where I aided actors such as Farhan Akhtar, Deepak Dobriyal, Gippi Grewal, and Innamulhaq. My highlighted contribution was presenting body percussion for one of the songs in EkKabootar.
More recently I have gained popularity as a participant in the third season of The Voice India – AR Rahman’s reality talent competition. I was able to showcase body percussion to some of the most prestigious names in the Indian music fraternity.
My philosophy has always been that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
What inspired you to start doing percussion? When did it happen?
My inspiration for body percussion stems from my love for dance and choreography, which had become a clear dream of mine when I was 13. Despite my father’s dreams of educating me in a white-collar job, I wanted to take up dance full-time and began choreographing wedding dances in Udaipur. Those early years in my choreography career opened several doors of opportunity, one of which came in the form of Vanaver Caravan, a music company that performs contemporary and core percussive dance worldwide. They had come to Udaipur to perform body percussion. They saw my interest and passion in their trade and invited me to the United States to perform.
Love at first sight is difficult to explain, but I was inspired by the challenging, unique, expressive, and high-octane nature of the dance form. I thereon had an immediate urge to introduce the beauty of it to my motherland.
Did you ever feel like you had made the “right” decision or that you were made for percussion or was it just something that you learned and stuck with?
I think it was a natural decision for me to practice and introduce body percussion because I truly connected with the dance form. In my honest opinion, the nature of the dance has brought out the best in my dancing abilities, because the high-octane energy fits my personality like a glove.
What challenges did you face during this journey?
Since I was already a choreographer and knew other dance forms, it was hard to just choose a new style when u are already settled in another form. I was already working at international levels and then I decided to take a completely new style right from the scratch. It was like re-learning everything I ever knew.
What was the biggest achievement during your journey?
I have spoken about this before, and my answer leaves even me surprised. One would think that the accolades, recognition, choreographing movies and music videos would be my biggest achievement. But when I look back upon all my achievements in the last seven years, I consider sharing a stage with two living legends – AR Rehman Sir and Adnan Sami Sir – as my biggest achievement. That moment during my stint at The Voice was, without a shadow of a doubt, my proudest and most humbling moment as a professional body percussionist. This is because my art was not only appreciated by them, but the legends of the music industry also wanted to perform with me.
How has your journey been so far?
My journey has undoubtedly been full of ups and downs, as is the case with every artist who wishes to etch their names in folklore. As a dancer, it has always been exhilarating to perform on any stage considering the sweat, injuries, and tears that have gone into my unique attempt at body percussion. As a choreographer, on the other hand, I am overwhelmed with joy when my students successfully learn the art of body percussion and eagerly anticipate for more. In addition, among the best parts of my journey has been to stamp my own mark in the Indian music industry and Bollywood. My journey has been full of joys and much-needed learning experiences, which I cherish, but at the same time focus on bettering myself in all professional aspects to build a trove of such beautiful treasures.
What are your future plans?
My plans are to perform and share the wonderful art of body percussion on both the national and international fronts as much as possible. My desire is to showcase my own twists while spreading the art form across the country, be it through dancing or teaching. I also aim to expand Heartbeators Dance Studio to other Indian cities and sharing my understanding of various dance forms to people belonging to all age groups and backgrounds.
Where would you like to see body percussion go next?
Body percussion, like any other art form, is timeless. Having originated in South Africa as a means of communication among slaves in the 17th and 18th century, it is still being performed all over the world because of its cultural significance and unique rhythmic appeal. There will, of course, my variations like my individualistic style, but I don’t see the art in itself change much over the course of time. In terms of popularity, however, I see body percussion moving from strength to strength in the near future. I have certainly taken responsibility with regard to this, simply because the art form speaks to me on so many different levels, and I’m certain that it will resonate with others on a deeper level as well.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians and dancers?
Everything said and done, one must understand that
there is no easy way to success, especially as a dancer. It’s all about a blend
of hard work, grit, discipline, sincerity, and emotion which must not be
compensated for anything else. Those pursuing music and dance must not only
prepare themselves for the failures and rejections that are bound to come their
way, but they must be humble enough to learn from them. Putting everything on
the line is mandatory for any aspiring artist, but those with unwavering self-belief
through thick and thin always come out on top.