Excited squeals and giggles fill the air followed by shouts of “Once Again”. When the performance starts, there's silence all around — just smiling faces and gleaming eyes taking in the goings-on on stage in rapt attention. While all this happens at Rhapsody at the Courtyard by Marriott, an equally large and enthusiastic crowd has gathered outside too.
In spite of being denied entry, they (mostly young girls), wait outside clapping and straining their ears to hear the latest poster boy of the music world, David Archuleta, sing. But what they miss out on is Shaun Parry and Stacey Tookey's (choreographer of ‘So You Think You Can Dance?') dance performance. And most importantly, the show put together by the children of Rising Star Outreach.
The kids sing along with David and also match steps with Shaun, a professional singer, dancer and Broadway artist from New York. “It took us two weeks to practise. I gave the kids very difficult moves, but they were brilliant,” says Shaun, who choreographed the show.
Shaun has been associated with Rising Star Outreach since its inception in 2007. The organisation works with people with leprosy and educates their children. “I met Becky Douglas (founding member of Rising Star Outreach) in May 2007 in the U.N., and by the end of that year I was in India,” says the dancer.
Back home, Shaun is the founder of Promethean Spark, an organisation that imparts life skills to impoverished children through training in performing arts. The organisation shares its methodology with Rising Star Outreach. “When kids grow up on the streets, they have nobody to teach them. We are the missing link between them and schools,” he explains.
Having spent three years with these children, Shaun has noticed a great development in them and says their ambition and imagination are amazing. “The children are thrilled when I visit. Like Santa Claus is coming. They are all like ‘Dance Master!', ‘Dance Master!' he exclaims.
In a career spanning 23 years, Shaun has a rather enviable resume. He has performed with dance companies such as New York Theatre Ballet and Martha Graham Dance Company and participated in national championships in ballroom dance. He has also been part of Broadway favourites such as “Cats”, “The Phantom of the Opera”, “AIDA”, and “Beowulf”.
The multi-faceted performer is now on the lookout for local dancers who'd like to volunteer to learn the Promethean method and train kids. The moves taught to them include Jazz and Ballet, and varied styles of Indian dance, especially Bharatanatyam. Shaun, who's collaborating with the Agaram Foundation, says he would like to work in Indian films. And, yes, he's negotiating for a film back home too!