The story of a Delhi e-rickshaw driver’s son, Kamal Singh, raising enough money through a crowdfunding campaign to be able to realise his dream of taking up his admission offer at the English National Ballet School (ENBS) in London tugged at many heartstrings worldwide.
The 20-year-old ballet enthusiast has now completed his first few weeks of lessons at the renowned dance institution in London after raising an incredible £20,764 with the help of hundreds of supporters, including Bollywood stars and several well-wishers, through the to meet his fees and living expenses.
Singh reflects: “I still feel very strange, like a miracle that I am attending my ballet course at ENBS. Speaking about it is one thing but when you enter that building, put your hands on those bars and you do some relevés (rises), jumps or turns in those classrooms, it is an incredible feeling. It makes you feel very special, like you are a different person.”
It was a chance encounter with Maestro Fernando Aguilera, the director of a ballet school and company in New Delhi, that changed the course of Singh’s life a few years ago. He fell in love with ballet and embarked upon a tough training regime, finding it quite challenging as he started to learn only from the age of 17.
But Aguilera had confidence in his talent and trained him for eight to nine hours a day. After years of intense training, his dream came true with an enrolment at the renowned ballet school in London, but the finances were a hurdle that the young dance enthusiast from a humble family had to overcome.
“I am so moved by the love and support I have been getting from the people. I am so grateful to the people who donated for my Ketto campaign… I am really very grateful as well as obliged. Your kindness is permitting me to fulfill my purpose and dreams,” says Singh.
“My focus is to work very hard and with full dedication. I have to give my 100 per cent because it is my big responsibility to myself, the school and to my Maestro Fernando. I have to prove to them that they chose the right guy and make them proud,” he said.
Singh’s focus is now on honing his skills on the path to becoming a professional and join a prestigious ballet company to represent India. After a trip with his classmates to acquire new ballet shoes and other essential gear, he has been embracing the English National Ballet School’s routine of rehearsals which involve ballet, contemporary, pilates and solo variations.
And, the coronavirus lockdown has meant adjusting to wearing a face mask during routines and rehearsing without a partner, but he is determined to work through it.
“I am not accustomed to dancing with a mask. It is very suffocating as you cannot breathe properly. Also, to maintain the social distance in class, it is very weird. But I feel very comfortable in my batch. Everybody is very nice to me,” he shares.
In his very little spare time over the weekend, Singh has been trying to find ways to explore the “beautiful city” of London – within its current lockdown restraints. Besides regular video calls with family members back home, he has also mastered the art of the perfect butter chicken thanks to online lessons from his mum.
“I do miss them a lot but thankfully today we have camera calls, so I speak to my family every day. I have to make them proud. They have lots of hope from me,” he said.