If war shapes boundaries, art shapes cultures, says Pratyusha Chhajer

Dance should be above politics and wars, she feels.

Ballet dancers and academies all over the western world have been protesting against the random sanctions put on them due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Concerts, dance recitals and exhibitions have been postponed indefinitely after the recent Russian intervention in Ukraine.

“It is unfair to sanction an academy in the West or Europe just because they have a Russian name or follow a Russian style of dancing or have Russian dancers training there. That is arbitrary but that is what is happening with many right now. We are all being judged for having any Russian connection,” says the owner of an academy in the West who does not want to be named.

Entrepreneur Pratyusha Chhajer of SS Ballet Academy in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, concurs. “The conflict is not good. No one is disputing that. However, I agree that to sanction a place, just because some of the teachers are Russian or they follow a Russian style of ballet dance, is misplaced.”

Though there are no sanctions on any Russian form of dance in India, Pratyusha is disturbed by this trend of ‘cancel culture’, especially when it comes to cancelling art forms. “Dance, just like music, is a universal language. Without having to speak, humans can express themselves through dance. Let’s not forget that if war shapes boundaries, art shapes cultures. Thus art should be above politics and wars.”

“Dance is the rhythm of moving leaves, dance is the rhythm of flowing water, dance moves to the rhythm of breeze — dance is  everywhere. Dance is within you, dance is outside you. So we should work in the direction of preserving culture, performing arts, traditions and heritage for our future generations,” she concludes.

India’s SS Ballet Academy leading the way with online dance classes

Who thought there would come a time when the world would almost be stranded inside their homes. But the pandemic and its lockdowns brought in new realities and even ushered in a new era of Work From Home.

But as the old saying goes, ‘All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy,’ people soon realised the ill effects of a sedentary virtual lifestyle. And that’s when, out of the blue, a whole new concept of an online education of dance took birth.

Online learning suddenly seemed to be more exciting than ever. And though dance requires more of a person-to-person interaction in teaching, dance teachers and academies around the world, did find ways to teach it through the computer and mobile screens.

One such academy is SS Ballet Academy (SSBA) headquartered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Founded by entrepreneur Pratyusha Chhajer, SSBA follows the Vaganova Method of ballet dance, which was made internationally famous by Russian ballerina Agrippina Vaganova.

Starting out in Indore, SSBA shifted its headquarters to Ahmedabad recently and plans to expand, with branches in Mumbai and Delhi in the near future. It is a member of the internationally prestigious Conseil International de la Danse (CID) certification, which is an official partner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (popularly known as UNESCO).

Talking about the online dance classes boom, SSBA’s founder Pratyusha Chhajer says, “Online classes not only offer a great opportunity to learn a new dance form, but also build confidence of the students, that too, while they enjoy the comforts of their home atmosphere.”

“Though it’s not the most ideal way of learning dance, it offers an opportunity to many outstation students who can’t manage to come to a new city to learn,” she remarks.

SS Ballet Academy aims to train newcomers and continue to take professional dancers under their wing, to help them reach a world stage.

“The online classes have given them a new chance to opt for distance training and continue their dream of becoming ballet artists,” adds Pratyusha. She further informs, “Inspite of the challenges, we are happy to have a good strength of ballet dancers joining SSBA and continuing their practice with us. They have been participating in different examinations and getting onto the next level.”

As soon as the pandemic situation gets completely normal, SSBA will restart the regular classes, but has decided to also continue with online classes.

Da Makeup Lab expands workspace with additional studio

Da Makeup Lab (DML), India’s number one makeup and prosthetic design studio, is in an expansion mode. Located in the posh Versova locality of Mumbai, it has fast emerged as the leading outfit for makeup and prosthetic requirements in the entertainment industry.

The premier state-of-the-art studio has opened a new workspace to incorporate more projects. Apart from its main facility, a workforce of around 25 skilled workers have begun lending their talent at the new facility in Versova itself, to create some of the amazing looks produced by the lab.

The rising

Led by makeup and prosthetic character designer Preetisheel Singh D’souza along with her work and life partner Mark D’souza, DML has curated looks for some of the biggest movies in Bollywood.

It’s profile includes names such as Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat, 102 Not Out, Housefull 4, Mom, Bala, Chhichhore, Bunty Aur Babli 2, the Southern megahit Master and the recent blockbuster Pushpa: The Rise. The lab has also curated looks for various advertisements featuring names such as Madhuri Dixit, Akshay Kumar and Ranbir Kapoor.

Creative genius

Preetisheel Singh D’souza has won the ‘National Film Award for Best Makeup’ for the pre-Mughal historical epic Nanak Shah Fakir. She has been featured by international media among the top 5 makeup and prosthetic designers in the world, along with Hollywood stalwarts such as Kazu Hiro, Christian Tinsley, Jordu Schell and Neill Gorton.

Her creative genius in the field has worked like a Midas Touch for many a movies, some of them emerging as the biggest box-office blockbusters of recent times.

Force behind the workforce

The company’s co-director Mark D’souza has a degree in Design Studies from the prestigious Griffith University in Australia. Earlier, he dabbled in VFX and animation. While his wife Preetisheel handles the talent and artistic departments of the studio, he handles the business and is the backbone of the company.

Mark’s guidance and expertise has helped DML witness tremendous growth in clients and has led the transformation from its initial days, to the full-fledged state-of-the-art makeup and prosthetics company today.

The future is here

The coming year will also see Da Makeup Lab launching a school for select students of the art. And as if all this isn’t enough, DML has various new projects lined up for release in the coming months. The firm has handled the makeup and prosthetics for top artistes in upcoming films like Gangubai Kathiawadi, Bachchhan Paandey, Ram Setu, OMG 2 and more.

SS Ballet Academy raises bar for ballet dancers with CID certification

The SS Ballet Academy (SSBA) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat has just revealed some interesting secrets that their students can benefit from. SSBA is a member of the internationally prestigious Conseil International de la Danse (CID) certification, which is an official partner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (popularly known as UNESCO).

SSBA students are now privileged to benefit from a whole lot of advantages. They can work on dance activities and events in India and have joint projects with students of other countries. They can take part in CID programmes as well as in meetings and activities of CID members.

In fact, CID encourages and forwards news for interaction with other CID members to their colleagues and students for more growth opportunities for their members.

Pratyusha Chhajer of SS Ballet Academy

SSBA students can even contact CID members before travelling to another country. They can seek a briefing and get assistance about dance programmes ahead of their journey to those countries. This is possible as CID has a vast network of professionals and operates like one big family.

But probably the most important benefit the students of SS Ballet Academy get from the CID certification is that CID validates the SSBA dance classes and provides a universal stamp of legitimacy to the academy’s students.

For the record, SS Ballet Academy was launched by its founder-director Pratyusha Chhajer four years ago to train and develop professional dancing. Named after Pratyusha’s children Samyan and Shonaya, SSBA follows the Vaganova curriculum method of ballet. It is a style of ballet training created by Russian ballerina Agrippina Vaganova, who became a highly renowned ballet teacher and has authored the book Basic Principles of Classical Ballet.

This curriculum method is marked by a fusion of the classical French style (specifically elements from the romantic era), with the athleticism of the Italian method, combined with the soulful passion of Imperial Russian Ballet.

SS Ballet Academy focuses on virtual dance classes to tide over pandemic

Dancing through the pandemic, literally

Ballet in itself is a unique dance form for India. On top of it, the pandemic presented a huge challenge to the newly launched SS Ballet Academy (SSBA), which started out in Indore, Madhya Pradesh and shifted headquarters to Ahmedabad, Gujarat. But its business model has fast evolved with the introduction of online classes.

“Although we all hoped that lockdowns wouldn’t come, we quickly prepared for them and transitioned to online classes via virtual methods such as Zoom and Google Classroom. Its worked out fine for now,” quips entrepreneur Pratyusha Chhajer, director of the academy.

She admits to have drawn inspiration from a lot of other people in the industry and dance schools across the globe, who were all forced into lockdowns. “Initially it seemed difficult. But gradually as we started believing in the idea, there was this shift in mindsets that dance classes could be conducted virtually,” she remarks.

Pratyusha also mentions that the dance industry is actually lucky that online classes can be so successful with the right teacher and right programme. “To keep making headway, learn and succeed in these exceptional times, is a huge challenge in itself,” she adds. True! It’s not only helpful to students to keep their minds creatively occupied, but also in learning a new universally acclaimed art form.

“Though virtual dancing lessons may not always be an ideal choice, it sure has opened new avenues for now and given opportunities and hope to many who feel stagnated or had their growth stunted due to the pandemic,” points Pratyusha. “They have now got this unique chance to train and grow, dancing through the pandemic, literally. And that’s an opportunity they are cherishing,” she concludes.

SS Ballet Academy follows the prestigious Vaganova Method in ballet dance. Recently, Pratyusha also conducted an informative interview with a prominent award-winning ballet teacher Fethon Miozzi of Vaganova Ballet Academy, based at St. Petersburg, Russia.

It can be noted here that SSBA has recently received certification from the internationally prestigious Conseil International de la Danse (CID); an official partner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (popularly known as UNESCO).

The academy is offering certification courses and classes to students who wish to excel in ballet dance. Though the classes are currently being conducted online, the academy is gearing up to resume offline certification courses soon. After Indore and Ahmedabad, SSBA plans to expand its branches to Mumbai, Delhi and other cities across the country.

Preetisheel steals hearts with Bunty Aur Babli 2

Bollywood’s most lovable crooks are back with Bunty Aur Babli 2. The trailer is out and the film is about to release soon. While Rani Mukerji and Saif Ali Khan are playing the senior con artistes, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari Wagh are the upstarts who are out to rob the ‘brand name’ of the original pair.

While the various looks of the much-awaited film are the talk of the town, one person who is really really happy with the tremendous response is makeup and prosthetic character designer Preetisheel Singh D’souza. The lady who is known for creating transformative looks for actors in numerous films like Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat, Housefull 4, Haider, Rangoon, Mom, 102 Not Out, Thackeray, Bala and Chhichhore, has once again outdone herself curating various looks for Bunty Aur Babli 2.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” quips Preetisheel, who recently also acquired a lot of critical acclaim for the various characters played by Divya Agarwal in the ALTBalaji web series Cartel. “When the pandemic hit, everyone was worried about the pace of the film industry. But the way things are picking up, it’s as if we are rolling at double the speed. And I for one, am not complaining,” she cheerfully adds.

Of course she has all the reason to celebrate. It’s been one of the most momentous years for her. Chhichhore won a National Award for best film, her Tamil action thriller where she curated the look for Southern superstar Vijay broke box-office records, and apart from Bunty Aur Babli 2, she has got yet another huge project in Allu Arjun’s multilingual Pushpa: The Rise – Part 1 coming up for release.

For the record, apart from being the No. 1 hair, makeup and prosthetic look designer in Bollywood, she runs India’s premier outfit Da Makeup Lab along with her partner husband Mark D’Souza. The lab’s building is a landmark in the posh Versova locality of Mumbai.

SS Ballet Academy proud to follow the Vaganova Method

Entrepreneur Pratuysha Chhajer who is the director of SS Ballet Academy (SSBA) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, is proud that her academy follows the prestigious Vaganova Method. Recently, she also conducted an informative interview with a prominent award-winning ballet teacher Fethon Miozzi of Vaganova Ballet Academy, based at St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Indian academy has recently received certification from the internationally prestigious Conseil International de la Danse (CID); an official partner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (popularly known as UNESCO).

The Vaganova Method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Russian dancer and pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova (1879-1951), who became a highly renowned ballet teacher and has authored the famous book The Foundation For Dance (more commonly known as Basic Principles of Russian Classical Dance).

Representational image

The method was derived from the teachings of the Premier Maitre de Ballet Marius Petipa, throughout the late 19th century. Agrippa Vaganova who perfected and cultivated this form of teaching classical ballet, turned it into a viable syllabus.

The Vaganova Method fuses elements of traditional French style from the romantic era with the athleticism and virtuosity of Italian Cecchetti technique. The method emphasizes development of strength, flexibility, and endurance for the proper performance of ballet.

The training system is designed to involve the whole body in every movement, with equal attention paid to the upper body, legs and feet. Vaganova believed that this approach increases consciousness of the body, thus creating a harmony of movement and greater expressive range.

Pratuysha Chhajer, director, SS Ballet Academy

In India, the SS Ballet Academy (named after Pratyusha’s children Samyan and Shonaya), was founded three years ago, to develop and train professional dancers. Starting operations in Indore, it became the first academy to introduce ballet to Central India. SSBA has now moved its headquarters to Ahmedabad, an economic hub with great cultural diversity in the vibrant state of Gujarat.

Certification courses and classes are available for students who wish to excel in ballet dance. In view of the pandemic, classes are currently being conducted online on Zoom and Google Classroom. However, the academy is gearing up to resume offline certification courses soon. After Indore and Ahmedabad, SSBA plans to expand its branches to Mumbai, Delhi and other cities across the country.

‘Black is beautiful’ gets a new meaning with Da Makeup Lab in Versova

‘Black is beautiful’ is a line synonymous with fashion. But who thought that an inanimate object in Mumbai will bag the tag. But that’s what has happened with the office of Da Makeup Lab; touted as India’s first hair, makeup and prosthetic lab.

Emerging a landmark in the heart of Bollywood in the posh locality of Versova, Andheri, Mumbai, this four-storied imposing black building with coloured dots and huge face murals painted on it, has become a centre of attraction for many. So much so that passersby not only take pictures of it, but often stand opposite it to take selfies with it in the background. Yes, you got that right — selfies with a building.

As for the lab itself, it is buzzing with activity throughout the year, with the company being owned by Preetisheel Singh D’souza and her husband-partner Mark D’souza. While Mark takes care of the business, Preetisheel looks at the creatives, constructing astonishing character designs for a plethora of films including Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat, Haider, 102 Not Out, Chhichhore, Housefull 4, Thackeray, Bala and the upcoming Gangubai Kathiawadi.

She is a National Award-winner and was recently featured by international website USA Newshour among the top best 5 makeup and prosthetic designers in the world, along with Hollywood stalwarts such as Kazu Hiro, Christian Tinsley, Jordu Schell and Neill Gorton. Also, she was the only woman featured in this top list of world-famous makeup and prosthetic designers.

Meanwhile, the beautiful black landmark building stands tall at Versova main road and keeps amusing everyone. We won’t say, ‘don’t miss spotting it,’ because if you happen to be in that part of Mumbai, there’s no way you can miss it.

“Teaching ballet has come as a great gift in life,” says Fethon Miozzi of Vaganova Ballet Academy

Entrepreneur Pratuysha Chhajer who is the director of SS Ballet Academy (SSBA) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, recently conducted an informative interview with a prominent award-winning ballet teacher Fethon Miozzi of Vaganova Ballet Academy, based at St. Petersburg, Russia.

In the interview, Miozzi divulged that he earlier wanted to be a doctor but it was destiny which led him to ballet dancing. “In the initial year, I did not like the strict discipline one has to adhere to while practicing ballet, but after my teachers appreciated my talent, I became a better dancer. Teaching ballet has come as a great gift that life has given me,” he says.

“Striving is the best path to being a good ballet dancer. Ballet is a difficult and strongly disciplined art form. You have to believe in yourself. Sometimes the initial journey might seem tough and painful. You will need a strong support system too — from parents, teachers, family and friends. There will be many hiccups in the path, but one should keep trying hard,” remarks the ballet teacher who loves his profession and students.

“It’s a beautiful job and it’s joyful. It’s difficult to separate and let students go after graduation. But seeing them successfully placed in big theatres is a great feeling,” he concludes.

Born in Rome, Miozzi graduated from the Roman Ballet Academy and joined the Mariinsky Ballet Theatre. After a State scholarship, he graduated with honours from the Vaganova Ballet Academy for ballet teacher and ballet master, and is since teaching at the academy, taking middle and senior classes.

Miozzi is characterized by expressiveness and great physical and theatrical attributes. He is distinguished by a classical manner, beautiful lines and light jump, having an ease with technically challenging maneuvers.

He has won several awards including the L. Massine prize for Rising Ballet Star in Italy, the Danza Si award for physical and artistic qualities, the Danza & Danza award for Best Italian Dancer in the World, and the Ballet Oscar in Italy.

Pratyusha Chhajer who beautifully and effortlessly conducted this wonderful interview is not only the founder and director of SS Ballet Academy, but also a renowned fashion designer with her own label Samyan Shonaya Haute Couture, and businesses under the brand name of Samyan Shonaya Group of Companies. She is a Melvin Jones Fellow and the founder president (charter president) of Lions Club of Ahmedabad Karnavati Zeal.

The Ahmedabad-based SS Ballet Academy (SSBA) has recently received certification from the internationally prestigious Conseil International de la Danse (CID); an official partner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (popularly known as UNESCO). SSBA aims to partner with teachers, institutes and academies from across the globe, who can help and guide its students in India, in the exquisite dance form of ballet.

Gujarat’s SS Ballet Academy receives international CID certification

The Ahmedabad-based SS Ballet Academy (SSBA) in Gujarat, has recently received certification from the internationally prestigious Conseil International de la Danse (CID); an official partner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (popularly known as UNESCO).

The International Dance Council CID, Paris, is the official umbrella organization for all forms of dance in all countries of the world. It is a non-governmental organization founded in 1973 within the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, where it is based. Its members are the most prominent federations, associations, schools, companies and individuals in over 170 countries.

“The SSBA is extremely proud to be certified by CID as it holds international value,” says Pratyusha Chhajer, the founder and director of SS Ballet Academy. “We at SSBA strive to successfully establish relationships with ballet schools and academies around the world and take India step by step forward on the international stage. This certification by The International Dance Council CID, Paris, goes a long way in boosting our confidence,” she adds.

The entrepreneur founded SSBA three years ago, to develop and train professional dancers. Starting operations in Indore, it became the first academy to introduce ballet to Central India. The academy has now moved its headquarters to Ahmedabad, an economic hub with great cultural diversity in the vibrant state of Gujarat.

Certification courses and classes are available for students who wish to excel in ballet dance. In view of the pandemic, classes are currently being conducted online on Zoom and Google Classroom. However, the academy is gearing up to resume offline certification courses soon.

Named after Pratyusha’s children Samyan and Shonaya, SSBA follows the Vaganova curriculum method of ballet. It is a style of ballet training created by Russian ballerina Agrippina Vaganova, who became a highly renowned ballet teacher and has authored the book Basic Principles of Classical Ballet.

After Indore and Ahmedabad, SSBA plans to expand its branches to Mumbai, Delhi and other cities across the country.

Mutants in Versova! Really?

In the Ultimate Marvel universe within the pages of the Ultimate Origins #1, it is revealed that super-powered “mutants” were artificially created via genetic modification by the Weapon X program in a laboratory in Alberta, Canada in October 1943.

However, as far as India goes, mutants have now begun to walk in Versova, Mumbai.

Before you jump out of your chair, let us tell you that National Award-winning makeup and prosthetic designer Preetisheel Singh Dsouza, who curated looks of Ranveer Singh as Alahudin Khilji in Padmaavat, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Balasaheb Thackeray in Thackeray and Ayushman Khurana as Bala in Bala, has gone ahead and begun experimenting with mutant figures.


Recently, celebrating the World Art Day on social media, Preetisheel shared a mutant face as an in-house experiment at Da Make Lab, her state-of-the-art makeup and prosthetic lab in Versova, Mumbai.

“Creative expression is our most cherished gift. Happy #WorldArtDay to all the creative artists. Reminiscing the process of creating this look from our first #AnimalXHuman mutant series,” she wrote, announcing that she is gearing up for more.

Must say, the mutant face she shared, does look super intriguing (reminds us a bit of Hellboy, but with full on horns) and we are looking forward to what she creates next.

 

Sushant might have felt a bit vindicated today, says Preetisheel Singh

Makeup and prosthetic look designer Preetisheel Singh who created all the young and old looks for Chhichhore, feels Sushant Singh Rajput would have felt vindicated if he was alive today.

Congratulating Team Chhichhore on bagging the Best Film National Award, “There is hardly any bigger satisfaction to cherish for a creative people, than getting due recognition. The National Award has etched Chhichhore looks in public memory forever.”

Talking about Sushant Singh Rajput and his untimely demise, Preetisheel says, “He sure deserved much more and had a lot to achieve. This National Award for Chhichhore might have made him feel vindicated.”

In fact, Preetisheel herself won the National Award for her first film Nanak Shah Fakir. Apart from Chhichhore, she has earlier worked for huge box-offices successes such as Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat, 102 Not Out, Mulk, Bala and Housefull 4, and designed looks for many A-listers including Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Deepika Padukone, John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor.

Preetisheel has also set up India’s first makeup and prosthetic lab called Da Makeup Lab at Versova, Mumbai. Her goal is to bring standards of makeup and prosthetics in India at par with Hollywood.