Meet Cindy Jourdain, the expert who trained the cast of Yeh Ballet

Halfway through Sooni Taraporevala’s directorial venture Yeh Ballet, I was fascinated by the lead actors’ deft moves and figured they probably spent a decade perfecting their pirouettes. Inspired by a real-life story, the coming-of-age film tracks the journey of two Mumbai boys who overcome their humble backgrounds and win scholarships to prestigious ballet schools. Turns out, it took actors Achintya Bose and Manish Chauhan only six months to get into character. Taraporevala roped in choreographers Shiamak Davar and Vitthal Patil for the film, and entrusted fitness trainer and former French ballerina Cindy Jourdain to help the actors nail the technical aspects of ballet. She trained Bose, a contemporary dancer, rigorously in ballet for six months and helped Chauhan (who plays himself in the film) to tone down his moves to appear more like a student. We caught up with her to chat about Yeh Ballet and how she trained the two actors for it


Cindy with the leading actors of Yeh Ballet


ELLE: How did you become a part of Yeh Ballet?

Cindy Jourdain: I was introduced to Sooni by a mutual friend. We got on like a house on fire and decided to work on this project right away. Apart from training Achintya, my challenge was also to get Manish, who is now a professional dancer, to play down his technique and remember the way it felt when he first learned ballet.


ELLE: What were the training sessions like?

CJ: We did barre and some center work at my studio. I focused on getting Achintya’s body to adapt to ballet codes like turn out, flexibility and footwork. We simultaneously worked on his balance, jumps, and turns. I also threw in a few of my bootcamp classes, movement-based workshops (held by other trainers) and freestyle practice days. The best part of the training period was when we settled on the boys’ duet for the final performance and they started looking comfortable with it. We drilled the steps so they were in complete sync with each other.

Manish had so much ballon and to see Achintya jump higher, do more pirouettes and gain control over his technique was a real joy. The downside was that Manish’s old shoulder injury resurfaced. I knew the shooting schedule would be extra hard on him and the demand for all the different dance styles took a toll on his body.


Cindy and Manish practice lifts at her fitness studio, Beyond in Mumbai


ELLE: Tell us about your favourite scene from the film

CJ: The scene where Achintya’s character was forced to stay and practice till late in the night, and he just couldn’t dance anymore. That’s when you understand what his teacher, Saul, is trying to accomplish with him, and also where their bonding takes a turn for the better.


ELLE: How was it to finally watch them on screen?

CJ: Seeing the boys on stage, in costume, in front of an audience, with the lights on and the cameras rolling–that was a really proud moment. They had built so much resilience and stamina during training that nothing stopped them that day and they did the duet in one take only. They were true professionals!


Achintya and Manish strike a pose


ELLE: Your biggest learning from Yeh Ballet…

CJ: While training and choreographing for the film, I was re-exposed to the concept of ‘You’re only as good as your team. So, look after one another!’ I am so grateful to Sooni for giving me the artistic freedom to lead the actors and feel at home on her set!

Banner image: Sahil Behal, Photographs: Cindy Jourdain

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