Dancing to his own Tunes: Sumon Rudra
An inspiring, valiant, dynamic and humble Sumon Rudra, is an alumnus of NIT Rourkela, who graduated in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in Biotechnology Engineering. Unlike career paths that engineers generally opt for, he took the unconventional route to become a dancer.
One of the founding members of Mavericks club in NITR, he is currently undergoing training in National School of Dance (KSOT), Athens, Greece.
He worships dance as an art form and strongly believes that everyone should follow their heart and do something different. He exemplifies the saying “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
MM caught up with this vibrant personality when he visited NITR to conduct a dance workshop, to know his tale full of vigour.
MM: Tell us something about your early life before joining NITR.
SR: I did my schooling at St. Paul’s School, Rourkela. I was one of the fore runners in the race of achieving academically, but I also played varied sports like- Cricket, Football, Basketball and I was among the top 3 Chess players in Rourkela and top 15 at state level.
In my school days, I had visited NITR and was awestricken by the vast campus and the aura that the students carried around them. I looked up to them. My parents and I were delighted when I got through and secured a seat at NITR.
MM: How were your four years of engineering at NITR?
SR: In NITR, my life became very monotonous and pressurized, and I also faced some setbacks in my personal life. By the end of first year, I lost all my enthusiasm and spirit. I went through an emotional crisis from which I couldn’t find my way back. This is when I found dance as a medium of solace. In second year, I bunked many classes and spent most of my time dancing in SAC, to vent out my long-suppressed aggression. My life changed completely after this in NITR.
MM: What were your career options after graduation in 2012 and why did you choose to dance above all?
SR: In my final year I realised that for the past 15 years of my life, all I had done was sit in one place and study. The thought of doing something similar once I join a company after graduation made me restless. I had two career options, one was to teach, as I had prior experience in this. I tutored since my school days for earning pocket money. The other option was to dance.
Students of NITR discuss about placements and packages from the very first day they step into this institution. Following the herd, when I started preparing my CV, I realised that the only skills I could flaunt, academically, were coding in C, C++ and a bachelor's degree in Biotechnology Engineering. Dance was my true skill as I had participated in several state and national level competitions. I decided to train formally and pursue a career in this field.
MM: Were your parents supportive of this career choice you made?
SR: In my final year, I divulged to my parents that I wanted to dance, but they were apprehensive of it. Unwillingly I appeared for placement interviews, where my disinterested answers gave me away and landed me with just rejections. Dance as a career has no monetary stability. My family was concerned about what I would do once I wasn’t capable of dancing anymore. It frightened me as well, but I drew inspiration from this and set a long-term goal to create job opportunities in this field, so that artists may pursue their career without the fear of facing social insecurities.
MM: What led you into the field of dance and how has your journey been till date?
SR: Ironically, my first two dance performances in my school days were repulsive experiences, where I was dressed as a girl in both- the first, in a Ghagra Choli in 6th standard and the second in a Sambalpuri saree in 7th standard.
In 2010, I gave my first dance performance in the NITR freshers, where I performed a solo piece that I had choreographed all by myself. I somehow found myself on that stage, in front of the audience with the music and lights, and that is when it all began for me. I trained under Mrs. Suchismita Biswas for one year in Bharatanatyam. During the spring fest, I danced contemporary for the first time in NITR, because I wanted to do something new. The second time I danced here, I was judged as the runner-up which was a huge confidence booster.
Synergy club was a well-established club even back then, yet I did not go for the inductions because I wanted to dance throughout the year. Joining the club wouldn’t solve this purpose and I would have found less time to dance for myself. Later in 2011, along with my three other co-founders, I founded Mavericks.
After graduation, I auditioned for the Attakkalari Centre of Movement Arts in Bangalore and was selected. In Bangalore I learned Kalaripayyattu extensively. It is the oldest martial art form in the world. I found it so interesting that I researched on it. I also learned Bharatanatyam, Ballet, Bollywood, and Contemporary techniques of dance. After completing my diploma with distinction, which was the highest level of dance education in India, I was keen to learn more. I auditioned for Dance India Dance Season 4 and reached the East zone finals but couldn’t qualify further.
I sent my dance videos and CV to institutes abroad. I got accepted in a few institutes but National School of Dance (KSOT), Greece, where dance was taught for free, funded by the Ministry of Culture, Greece, was the most suitable one for me. Yet I had to face a lot of hardships to bear my living expenses, but Debayan Chakraborty and few other friends from NIT, my school friends and parents pooled in to support me. I also taught Bollywood dance part-time. Later I met Anna Dimitrato. Currently we are working together and hosting workshops in many places.
MM: You have seen Mavericks since its inception. How do you feel about its evolution, being one of the founding members?
SR: After my first dance performance, I met my batch-mate Debayan Chakraborty, who is now like a brother to me, with whom I collaborated and we started working together. We went to IIT Kharagpur in our third year and won a prize. We also won a prize for a duet performance in NITRUTSAV. With time, we kept growing as dancers and were recognized for it. In our final year, we decided that we must come up with a team of our own to pass on this legacy. Along with Ashis Das and Shalabh Gupta, we formed Mavericks. We performed in the 2011 freshers for the first time as Mavericks, gaining a lot of appreciation. This is how Mavericks was born. In a few months, we grew from 4 members to 10 and participated in NITRUTSAV 2012, winning the first position.
The creation of Mavericks raised the level of dance in NITR, as a healthy competition persisted between the two clubs, pushing them further to perform innovatively, using a wide range of techniques and dance forms. I feel proud when I see the performance videos of the two clubs these days on Youtube.
MM: You had introduced an OE for Contemporary dance in the academic year 2013-14 in NITR. How was the response from the institute as well as the students?
SR: I wanted to practice more to achieve finesse after my diploma, but unfortunately Rourkela didn’t have any institute for this. When I told my story to Prof. S.K. Sarangi, he was impressed and gave me an offer to start Contemporary Dance as an OE in NITR. Thus, not only did he give me an opportunity to practice, but also to earn a living by spreading my knowledge to enhance the dance culture. I prepared a syllabus and trained around 30-35 children in the autumn semester which was an unexpectedly great response.
I am grateful to Prof Sarangi. He is a visionary. For the first time in the history of an engineering college, dance was introduced as an OE. He is truly my Godfather.”
MM: You are hosting a dance workshop here from 21st-24th August. What inspired you to do so?
SR: I want to contribute to the enhancement of the dance culture in NITR. I want to teach the students a few basic body movements, but moreover want to inspire and provoke these young dance enthusiasts to look inwards and create their own styles. I want to give them a platform to feel and dance from their heart.
MM: How does it feel to be back at NITR?
SR: With the increased number of fests, expanding infrastructure, and new subjects like film studies and sports psychology being introduced, it feels great to see NITR growing exponentially. I also read articles stating NITR to be among the top 8 institutes in India. This place is full of opportunities.
This place is my home. My heart lies here in NITR, in the Student Activity Centre.
MM: You have come a long way from where you started. What keeps you going?
SR: There are many things I want to do and constantly feel like I haven’t done enough. I want to make a difference by promoting different and rare dance techniques. When my friends read or hear about me and tell me that I am inspiring many people, this keeps me going.
I want to inspire people to have the courage to pursue what they want to do.
MM wishes him greater success and hopes to see him achieve his dreams in the near future.