Call Me Dancer Documentary Sheds Light on Manish Chauhan’s Unlikely Path to the Professional Stage

December 8, 2023

As a teenager in Mumbai, b-boy Manish Chauhan mastered the art of street dance. Inspired by a favorite Bollywood movie, he taught himself how to backflip. Then came spinning on his head, launching himself through the air, and harnessing gravity in myriad other ways.

He was adamant: “Don’t call me ‘acrobat.’ Call me ‘dancer.’ ”

There is no mistaking that Chauhan is a dancer. When referred to Mumbai’s The Danceworx school by a street-dance competition participant, Chauhan fell in love with ballet. After years of intense training in both classical ballet and contemporary dance, he fought against all odds—physical, financial, geographical, and more—to pursue his dream career. Chauhan secured his first company contract in 2021 with New York City’s Peridance Contemporary Dance Company. This month, he will fulfill a longtime goal of performing as a classical lead when he dances the title role in artistic director Igal Perry’s The Nutcracker.

Now, a documentary telling Chauhan’s story will hit the big screen this month. Call Me Dancer follows Chauhan from before his first ballet class to the kickoff of his professional career. Directed by former professional ballet dancer Leslie Shampaine and TV and film veteran Pip Gilmour, the film will be released in theaters in New York on Friday, December 15, then afterward in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Canada.

Call Me Dancer shows Chauhan’s intense journey to professional dance as he navigates financial barriers and his parents’ insistence on following a more traditional career path. Mentorship from Israeli American ballet master Yehuda Maor, friendly competition from former classmate Amiruddin Shah—the first male ballet dancer from India to train at The Royal Ballet School—and raw perseverance set him on the path to defy the odds.

The documentary made its world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February 2023 and has gone on to win 11 awards at international film festivals, including the Art & Inspiration Award from Hamptons Doc Fest. For more information and to learn about additional screenings, head to the Call Me Dancer website.

Check out a clip from the film below: