Love doesn’t need a language, or does it? Can you employ only dance as a medium to experience love? Indian American actor/comedian/writer Tarun Shetty, who is very much single, decided to find out by participating in Fox’s new reality series, series, “Flirty Dancing,” which combines dating with dancing.
Viewers can watch the romance unfold Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. during the two-hour season finale.
In the show – based on the hit U.K. series of the same name – complete strangers learn half of a dance routine, then meet for the first time on a blind date, where they then dance together without uttering a word. One contestant, who is paired with two possible partners, performs a different choreographed dance with each of them, before picking “the one” for a second date.
In this romantic approach to dating, these singles push themselves out of their comfort zones in the hope of being swept off their feet, rather than swept to the left or right on a phone, said Fox.
And this concept, which gives it novelty on TV, piqued Shetty’s interest.
“First of all, I’m single,” chuckled Shetty in an interview with India-West a few days before the broadcast of his episode. “I do love dancing. I’ve been dancing since I was a kid. I’m not a professional dancer by all means but I was in dance clubs in college in New York and also in Los Angeles. When I heard that this was a dance show combined with dating, I was like, ‘Oh! this is a great opportunity to meet somebody.’ It seemed like a totally new experience and that’s why I jumped at and thought it was a fun thing to do.”
Shetty shared that he wasn’t sure if good dancing skills were a prerequisite for the show but a background in dance certainly seemed to work in his favor.
“When they asked me if was a good dancer, I said, ‘Yea! I’m a good dancer coz I love dancing. I didn’t know what the standards were but they did put me through a choreography test,” he recalled to India-West. “I put a lot of work into the dance. I worked with some amazing choreographers who have renowned experience. They came up with the routine and they taught it to me. I practiced it for days.”
The action started months ago, Shetty told India-West, when a casting director reached out to him on Instagram, gauging his interest in being on the show. Even though he was spotted on social media, his journey to the screen required climbing several steps.
“It all started in the summertime. I did numerous calls with casting directors and executives and I also did a dance audition with a choreographer in Hollywood. It just kind of happened organically,” Shetty told India-West. “It was a week of filming so very intense and very fast.”
The dance routine itself, said Shetty, wasn’t intimidating, but all the elements of a dance TV show definitely made it “challenging” and needed a lot of focus.
“I’m not going to lie to you and say, ‘Oh! It wasn’t intimidating at all!’ There were some nerves and anxiety but on the whole, my experience on the show was mentally positive,” Shetty told India-West. “It was a fun, amazing experience during which I learned a lot about myself because there were some challenges in terms of learning the choreography, performing the dance with someone who I’ve never met before – that was a little intimidating especially with all the cameras rolling – in front of a national audience.”
He continued: “As South Asians, we give everything our best. Whatever we do, we want to excel at that, so I wanted to make sure that I’m representing Indians well and it’s a great performance. I did put everything into it for those few days and I had a lot of help from great teachers along the way.”
Shetty is no stranger to the camera, though. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he wrote/acted/produced the hit viral Web series, “Desi OC” – which racked up over three million views – and the indie film, “Bobby Khan’s Ticket to Hollywood” (it’s available for streaming on Amazon.)
His TV credits include a starring role on the Disney pilot, “Code 9,” and guest appearances on shows including “Grimm,” “The Failing Man” and the 2018 thriller, “Doe.”
The Laconia, New Hampshire-born Shetty is clearly a man of many talents, both on and off-camera. Along with being a standup comic who elicits roaring laughter at his shows, he has also authored the book, “Laughing in Hell,” which offers a peek into a standup comic’s life. Recently, he created a series of relatable and fun travel videos, “Tarun Travels,” travelling the length and breadth of the country.
“Flirty Dancing” is hosted by actress and dancer Jenna Dewan, whom Shetty said was “absolutely marvelous.”
“Most Hollywood people you kind of have this perception of how they are going to be in person. But she is extremely nice and I felt like she genuinely had an interest in setting me up with a partner on a date,” Shetty said. “Also, she’s been through her own relationships. She’s been brought up in this country, she understands the challenges, the nuances when you date or sort of find somebody. It was great having her as a facilitator and also a friend on the show who’s helping you along the way.”
The show’s concept has a few “similarities and parallels” with arranged marriages, opined Shetty, noting, “Irrespective of Indian culture, when you date anybody, you are putting yourself out there. You have to be open to a new experience and see what happens.”
“You walk into an experience not knowing who the other person is and the next thing you know you are married and you have a totally new life,” he added. “In this case, I wasn’t able to talk to the girl. I was simply able to dance with her and based on that she got to choose who she wanted to date.”
Shetty went on to share that the experience was “unrelatable,” akin to “being on a roller coaster for the first time.”
“You have no idea what to expect. You’re just diving into water and hopefully you’ll come out on top,” he shared.
He added that he’d like viewers to remember him as someone who is personable and genuine, and of course, funny.
“For me, the most important thing was to be an authentic person because I felt like it was a great medium for me to be who I was. While filming I just tried to be in the moment and be who I am,” he told India-West.
So did Shetty find love on the show?
“Tune in to see what happens,” he remarked. “I’m excited to represent Indians on the show and I hope they’re proud of me. I think the South Asian community will get a big kick out of this show and I’m so glad for the opportunity to do it.”