Elvis Hillary Mascarenhas dances to the tune of success

The enthusiastic dancer does not allow his spina bifida hinder his love of rhythm and movement
Elvis Mascarenhas and Namrata Wittke with KSWC 2022 medal and trophy.
Elvis Mascarenhas and Namrata Wittke with KSWC 2022 medal and trophy.Pic courtesy: Elvis Mascarenhas

Fr Carlos Luis SAC

Do you remember, last year in December, a song premiered on YouTube, called “Assa Vibe” by Elvis Hillary Mascarenhas aka Styleee? While the song keeps striking a chord with us, Elvis makes us proud by representing India and as the Kizomba Semba World Champion 2022 along with Namrata Wittke.

A music producer, songwriter and professional dancer, Elvis is Goan by blood. Although born and brought up in Mahim, Mumbai, he belongs to a family of musicians in Goa.

He says, “Since my birth, I have been to Goa every year to meet my family, which comprises highly talented musicians, serving Goa with their music for quite a long time.” 

Elvis is the founder of the Rare Grooves Dance Company. Dance for him is an out-of-body experience. 

Elvis' fluidity in movement is astounding.
Elvis' fluidity in movement is astounding.Pic courtesy: Elvis Mascarenhas

He explains, “It helped me see this side of me that I would have not known. It is a very powerful form of expression that can mould your life into a beautiful place to live in, even with all the hardships one has to face. Dance is more than just steps you see people do. Every movement has meaning attached to it. Music and the urge to create inspire me to dance.”

Elvis has been teaching kizomba and semba dance styles since 2015. He believes that winning the title of Kizomba Semba World Champion 2022 will open up chances not just for him and his dance partner to teach the dance around the world, but will also create opportunities for Indians and Asians to participate in the longest-running championship in the world.

He states, “Winning the championship in Paris, for an Indian, is a big deal. Getting respect from the people who live this culture is a blessing.” 

Elvis Mascarenhas with Namrata Wittke - the dancing duo.
Elvis Mascarenhas with Namrata Wittke - the dancing duo.Pic courtesy: Elvis Mascarenhas

Since 2008, when he took his dive into professional dance, he has practised and mastered an endless list of dance styles like salsa, house, hip-hop freestyle, mambo, kizomba, semba, Afro-Cuban, cha-cha-cha, bachata and Afro house.

Winning coveted titles like Juste Debout India; Top 4, Juste Debout at the world finals in Paris; winner of Urban Renewal, New York City; Top 4, House Dance International, New York City; Dance@live India Hip Hop Champion (2014); Asian Salsa Solo Shines Champion (2016); and World Champion for Rising Star Pro Salsa in Miami (2018), creating history as the first Indian/Asian to win the solo category at the World Salsa Summit.

For Elvis, it is the type of music that motivates him to dance in different styles. “I love to move, and if I like a genre of music, then I will look for the dance associated with it and start exploring it. It’s taken quite a lot of time and energy to learn a style and be good at it. I learn from everyone and everything, and I’m blessed to have great mentors in the specific styles I do. But on top of everything, music is my main teacher.” 

Never letting his troubles get him down.
Never letting his troubles get him down.Pic courtesy: Nikhil More

Elvis has spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord form incorrectly. He has had a painful time with it physically and mentally, driving him to become depressed and angry. But physiotherapy by Dr Bipin, and then dance, helped him heal further. Now no amount of competition can deter him.

He affirmatively states, “I work on my skills, help my students grow and achieve their dance goals, and keep building my teaching techniques. The rest just falls in place.” 

Elvis is enthused by those who move dynamically and naturally, most especially by Prabhu Deva, Michael Jackson and Tight Eyez, but has favourites in all the styles he performs. 

Elvis' favourite dancing style keeps changing.
Elvis' favourite dancing style keeps changing.Pic courtesy: Jinisha Padharia

In an interview with Promita Mukherjee, Elvis once said, “Finance is one of the major struggles… We have to spend money in training, and there isn't much support in the form of sponsorships either.” 

He regrets that the situation continues to be the same, when it comes to sponsorship for competition travels, etc. 

Although he is now financially sound, he says, “In the early stages, making dance a profession was new to me. I had no idea I would become a professional dancer, so it took time to understand the business side of it. As I gained experience, things got better.”

Finance is always an issue for up and coming dancers.
Finance is always an issue for up and coming dancers.Pic courtesy: Rohit Khetle

Elvis’ favourite dance style keeps changing as he discovers new sounds, but he says house dance, a freestyle street and social dance, is his saviour. He likes and loves it the most, considering it is close to nature and focuses on being free. 

Elvis is very aware of his struggles and, therefore, does not shy away from advising and inspiring young dancers.

He says, “Keep working on your craft. Success is not long due. Do your research well: what, where, how and why you decided to go with a specific style. Time is most valuable. Don’t waste it. We are here for a little while. Don’t forget to share what you have because that is your main factor of growth. It’s a give-and-take process.”

(Carlos Luis is a priest belonging to the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottine) and is currently the mission secretary of the ABVM Province, Bangalore. He comments on literature and films that mirror life.)

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