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Dancing to a different tune

MAIN STORY: At a time when job opportunities are scarce, jobseekers have sought a different avenue to find employment rather than opting for the usual route  of looking for a government, private or corporate sector job.

Today, jobseekers, mostly youngsters, who have completed class X and XII are seeking employment in the entertainment industry where jobs usually are infrequent. But many have managed to find a place in this growing industry.

Tandin Tshering, 20, has been living in the capital for the past one year. He came to Thimphu to pursue his passion to dance when he found there was an opening for a dancer at one of the nightclubs in Thimphu called Thimphu Club.

Tandin Tshering had just completed his class XII and was living with his parents in Samtse when he heard about the vacancy. This was the perfect opportunity to pursue his passion.

Today, Tandin Tshering can be seen polishing his dance skills at the club with other dancers who are equally diligent. Tandin focuses on lyrical hip-hop and hopes to become a choreographer in the near future.

“Lyrical hip-hop is a dance genre that combines classical dance moves with the movements of hip-hop,” Tandin said. “This is the beginning of my career and even if it’s at a club, I consider it a good platform to show my talent.”

Tandin Tshering recalls the days when he used to practice his dance moves at home in front of a television. He still practices, but this time using the internet.

Every day, except for Tuesdays, Tandin reaches the club at six in the evening and starts rehearsing. It is only after three hours that the club starts filling with people.

“Once the customers start pouring in, we start dancing to a number of tunes starting from our traditional songs to Korean pop songs,” he said.

“We dance till midnight. It’s an interesting career and I feel proud to stand on my feet through dancing.”

Thimphu Club dancers show off their unique dance moves (Photo: Thimphu Club)
Thimphu Club dancers show off their unique dance moves (Photo: Thimphu Club)

Before heading to Thimphu, Tandin was pampered by his family. “I live alone here and I’ve started learning the value of money and working hard. Now I appreciate my parents and their hard work even more.”

The dancers get paid around Nu 10,000.

Another dancer at the club, Pema Tshering, 20, from Zhemgang said the dance group is like one family.

Pema, too, came to Thimphu to pursue his passion for dancing. After he joined the club, he hasn’t looked back once.

“Sometimes, people say bad things about us since we work at the club. Many don’t understand but there are equally others who encourage and appreciate our work,” Pema Tshering said. “The entertainment industry is growing by the year and I hope there will be more such platforms for entertainers like us.”

Pema Tshering hopes to choreograph in the film industry like Tandin and open a dance studio in the future.

“I hope to help youngsters like me who come in search to pursue their passion. We don’t necessarily need to work in an office to sustain, we can actually do that following our passion too,” Pema said.

Currently, there are about 32 dancers at the club.

While there are youngsters like Tandin and Pema who are dancing their way up the ladder in the entertainment industry, there are actors like Sonam Tenzin who are quite comfortable in this business today.

Sonam Tenzin first ventured into films after he graduated in 2010. That year, with him, more than 2,000 other graduates entered the job market.

“I clearly recall how frightened I was when I saw so many jobseekers competing in the market. When I got an offer in a film, I jumped right in,” Sonam Tenzin said.

But starting a career without any formal training or acting course made things difficult for the new actor. When his first movie, Sharchogpa Zamin, was released the same year, the audience responded with positive remarks.

“I got the encouragement I needed from the audience as a newbie and today I’m happy that I’ve starred in 16 movies,” he said. “I never thought I will make it as an actor. I’m grateful to the entertainment industry.”

Sonam Tenzin started his career with Nu 10,000 for a movie six years ago. Today, he gets paid around Nu 170,000 for every movie.

Life wasn’t always this generous though, Sonam Tenzin said.

My parents are farmers in Bumthang and I was raised there, the veteran actor said.

“I hardly knew anyone in Thimphu. I remember how I used to spend the days counting cars along the Norzin Lam,” he said. “Today, I know almost everyone in Thimphu, which still surprises me.”

With recognition, as an actor, we have a responsibility to the people that appreciate our works, Sonam Tenzin said. “Once people recognise us, we have to set a good example.”

Sonam Tenzin on location for his upcoming movie (Photo: Sonam Tenzin)
Sonam Tenzin on location for his upcoming movie (Photo: Sonam Tenzin)

For an entertainer to survive in this growing industry, we have to be loved by our audiences and that entails being a good human being, Sonam Tenzin said. “People don’t like us if we are egoistic or show off and we have to always work hard.”

Today, Sonam Tenzin is trying his hands as a director. His first film, Gasa Lamai Singye and Changyul Bum Galem will be releasing soon.

While an aspiring singer, Sonam Wangmo, 19, has been waiting for a breakthrough in the entertainment industry.

Sonam can be seen singing in gigs and clubs along with her friends. Her journey towards towards becoming a full-fledged singer hasn’t been fulfilled yet.

“I’ve learnt that it’s not easy to survive just by being a singer or an entertainer right now. There’s a long way to go for entertainers to survive in this market,” Sonam said.

Sonam Wangmo has decided to complete her studies for now and hopefully find a place in this growing entertainment business at a later stage of her life.

Meanwhile, Thimphu Club is almost deserted after midnight. The last customers leave home. The dancers start packing and head home. It’s been a tiring day but a fulfilling one at that.

 Thinley Zangmo

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