Guyana native and Richmond Hill resident Dheraaj Gayaram has won more than 150 awards in Indian dancing competitions around the world.
But even after he retired from competition, he is still winning awards.
Gayaram, 49, was honored for his talents at the Sunshine Awards, which recognize excellence in performing arts, education, sports and science in various Caribbean Cultures.
The Sunshine Awards were founded in 1989, and Gayaram was honored in the performing arts category during an Oct. 4 Manhattan ceremony.
“I was really happy because I never thought, at this age, I would win another award,” Gayaram said. “It was an unbelievable.”
Gayaram started his dancing career in Guyana at the age of 9, which is when he won his first award.
He knew at that time that he had a talent for dance but was hesitant to pursue it even though his father begged him to.
“I wanted to be a doctor at the time,” Gayaram said. “But my father was persistent; he wanted me to dance.”
He continued to dance but it was only one of his hobbies until the age of 15 when his father passed away. He then made a choice to take his dancing talents more seriously and turn it into a career.
“From that point I made a choice and there was no turning back,” Gayaram said.
He took first place in nearly every competition he entered, so much so that he was later banned from competing because of how good he was.
In 1989, he moved from Guyana to Richmond Hill, where he continued to crush his competition in Indian dancing. Even though he has had such an illustrious career as a dancer, Gayaram struggles daily with continuing his dream due to the way he is treated by many people.
“I’m 49 years old and people are still making fun of me and trying to hurt me,” said Gayaram, who has two daughters. “There are many times when I think about quitting, but if there is one thing dancing taught me it was to be strong.”
Although Gayaram has encountered an abundance of hurtful people in his life, the huge support system that he has, headed by his children, helps him overcome the cruelty.
“I do it for my daughters,” Gayaram said. “I want to be the best father I can be for them and support them through my talents.”
Done with his competition career, Gayaram focuses his time on his dance studio now. He not only helps his students progress as dancers but also teaches them life lessons that have helped him get to where he is.
“I tell them you have to be happy with yourself. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, no one will,” Gayaram noted. “Stay strong throughout your life and do not let people get to you.”
When he was honored at the Sunshine Awards, he said he was humbled to be surrounded by so many talented people.
“Just to be on the same stage as some of those people was an accomplishment,” Gayaram said. “It was the icing on the cake.”