Dance exponent and entrepreneur, Versha Magan prides herself in being the best – in the last two decades she has led the change in the dance industry in the country.
Magan’s passion and drive for dancing has earned her a respected name in the entertainment industry and she is leaving behind evolutionary footprints in dance.
With her latest production, Badtamasti Returns, she will transport her audience to the bustling streets of Mumbai, the home of Bollywood – with her vibrant and spectacular dance performances. Her production, of Badtamasti, last year bears testament to her new and innovative styles of dance which she is constantly creating.
She received much applaud for her show last year and due to public demand she is back with an unforgettable performance. The show will be staged at the Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City on February 21 and will show case a diversity of movement, complimented with talented dancers and beautiful costumes.
Magan’s work is evident of her commitment to the industry – having quit her job in the corporate world after 15 years to follow her heart.
“Badtamasti Returns” has much to offer the audience – while listening to the vibrant music the dance sequences will be interpreted in a beautiful South African, Bollywood and contemporary styles. The concept is fun through dance which creates moments of laughter and joy – the uniqueness of the production is in the choreography. We have professional dancers who have joined us to elevate the standard of dance from the youngest to the more experienced,” she said.
Magan’s business model developed from the idea of spreading the knowledge of culture and arts to the youth who had little opportunity or needed to travel to Lenasia for dance classes. She set the trend with the idea of travelling to places where she saw the need – an idea other dance schools followed. Magan said through this effort, much opportunity has been created for many who are passionate about dance.
“I wanted to make a difference by developing the youth and woman of our community – and it’s been a gratifying experience for me. I wanted to provide opportunities for others that never had it before, by creating platforms for them to soar to greater heights. My first success was a personal goal to step out of a nine to five job and follow a dream – my passion then was the idea of the dance academy,” she said. She said the challenges she faces with her job is the pressure of academics that takes priority – but she said some parents need to understand, giving a child the freedom to express through a talent or art form other than academics assists in creating a holistic child. The mind is balanced and has an opportunity to develop differently, she said.
“Dance helps with discipline, balance, exercise, co-ordination, muscle tone, direction and allows a person to go within and connects you with the divine,” she said.
Magan is a seasoned dance instructress, choreographer, artistic director and actor – her latest role sees her making a debut in the upcoming Afrikaans film Stom, where she plays a doctor.
Dancing from the age of eight, Magan was first drawn to the graceful art of ballet and then moved over to modern dance. Later she was bitten by the Bollywood bug and was fascinated by the energetic dance style.
She has taught dance at the Jhankaar School of Dance for the last 21 years, has been dancing for 35, teaching the art for over 25, and doing choreography for almost 17. Magan is the director of Jazzy Masala Creative and runs a talent agency– which prides itself in teaching various dance forms with a strong base in kathak and also includes ballet, jazz, hip-hop, Bollywood jazz and contemporary dance to keep up with an industry that is constantly evolving and always looking for something new.
“South African Indian dance has very few, if not any, platforms where the beautiful art can be performed and enjoyed by artists and audiences. Jazzy Masala Creative’s aim is to create these opportunities and allows professionals together with students to perform on the same platform which enables them to learn and progress from each other. My students are from across all race groups and love Indian dance.”
She said Jazzy Masala Creative is the first to give opportunities to choreographers who are eager to create new and innovative moves to Indian music, under her guidance. Choreographers Douglas Sekete, Thulani Chauke and Steven Phele have worked with her on productions.
Part of Magan’s training has been in the north Indian kathak style of dance, which she learnt in London and later ventured into contemporary Bollywood jazz. For her, teaching dance and creating new ways of moving has been the “most rewarding experience spiritually, physically and mentally”. Her corporate marketing background has also put her in good stead to make her business a success.
Magan says that she owes much of her success to founder of Jhankaar School of Dance, Dr Ranjit Lalloo, who made her childhood dream become a reality by offering her the chance to choreograph dance sequences for 18 of his productions. Two of her acclaimed dance pieces, Garam Masala and Traffic were born from working on Lalloo’s Mumbai Nagari.
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Among her many career highlights her choreography with Surya in 2007 and Garam Masala a year later which was showcased at the FNB Dance Umbrella. She assisted with the choreography for the internationally acclaimed 2006 production of Red by Raza Jaffrey who performed in Bombay Dreams with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Magan also assisted with the choreography in the production of Fusion, by Tyrone Watkins and choreographed the Bollywood dance scenes as well as played a supporting role in South Africa’s comedy king, Leon Schuster’s, Mr Bones II – Back from the Past. Magan also played a role in the popular local soapie Isidingo where she played the character of Meera.
Her previous productions include Naach (2009), Dil Se (2010), Desh Ya Pardes (2010), Armaan (2011), Rang (2012), Footprints of a Dancer (2013) and Badtamasti (2014).