A Bollywood dancer who switched disciplines to star in Channel 4's Big Ballet has told what a struggle it was to stop himself shaking his hips.

Raj Parmar, who grew up in Hounslow, had to fight his natural instincts as an Indian dancer as he practised pirouettes and plies for the reality show.

The 33-year-old former Heston Community School pupil is one of just two men and the only Asian person to appear on the programme, the second episode of which airs tonight.

He and his 17 fellow plus-size participants worked with dance stars Wayne Sleep and Monica Loughman to realise their dream of dancing Swan Lake for the show.

It was a particular struggle for Raj, who runs a Bollywood dance academy and had never even watched ballet before auditioning alongside 500 hopefuls last summer.

"I didn't know anything about ballet. Bollywood is all about shaking the hips and lip-synching but in ballet that's a no-no. Trying to stop those hips moving when you've done that for 14 years is so hard," he said.

"I was in pain after rehearsals every day for two months. I have so much respect now for professional ballet dancers because the focus and dedication required to succeed is immense."

Raj Parmar, who appears in Channel 4 show Big Ballet
Raj Parmar, who appears in Channel 4 show Big Ballet
 

Raj grew up in Victoria Avenue, Hounslow, and studied at a number of schools including Hounslow College and Heston Community School before moving to Bradford, where he lives with his wife, after finishing his A-levels.

Having trained as a radio presenter, make-up artist and model, he set up his own dance academy Spice Entertainment in 1999 and has worked on the choreography for MTV and several popular British Asian music videos.

He has appeared on stage at a number of festivals and even had minor roles on the big screen in Casino Royale and Mischief Night.

Ironically it was giving up dancing two years ago, to focus on teaching and choreography, which caused him to swell from 13 to 17 stones and gave him the chance to audition for Big Ballet.

"I'd always been interested in ballet but being a guy and being Asian it wasn't the done thing, which held me back," he said.

"I think there's still a certain stigma attached to men dancing, especially in the Asian community. Many parents want their sons to pursue more traditional professions like medicine or law.

"When this opportunity presented itself I leapt at the chance to try something I've always wanted to do. My mum Usha's so supportive. She's always been adamant that as long as I'm happy doing what I'm doing she will be proud of me."

* You can follow Raj's progress by tuning into the second episode of Big Ballet on Channel 4 tonight (Thursday, February 13) at 9pm.