Surviving and Thriving – Robin Merchant

How a choreographer overcame her spinal injury…

Robin Merchant

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Choreographer and Producer Robin Merchant. Upon meeting Robin she comes across as a sweet, shy, and laid-back personality, but don’t be fooled by her humble exterior. The girl has choreographed over sixty five commercials, competed on Dancing With The Stars, runs an international dance festival, which ran its first year in partnership with Cirque Du Soleil, and has worked with a ton of movie stars in films as well as award shows ranging in the budgets of $30-50 million.

Interview by Stephen Thompson, Ph.D.

Welcome to OpenBeast. How did you break into the Film Industry in Bollywood?

2007 was the first year that an international American movie took me to India. At that time, local Indian dancers were professionally dabbling with western technique but there weren’t many instructors that were trained in those forms. Indian cinema was really interested in building its western styles so I became a natural consultant in the field; pioneering the field had its benefits. What started as a year stint turned into a five year journey, and earned me the title of a Cultural Connect Ambassador.

We heard you had an injury while filming on Dancing With The Stars India, how did that impact your life and career?

Yes, during rehearsals for our second competitive number I fell out of a lift upside down and suffered major back injuries and caused me to stop dancing for over two years.  The scariest part was when the doctors threw me in a wheelchair for a few days while they figured out what the problem was. It caused a large mental milestone which took immense strength to overcome. However the injury impacted me in a way I could never have imagined, as a result my dance festival, Artists In Action A World Dance Movement was born.

Tell us about your dance festival?

Artists In Action Class blog

For a dancer, not being able to dance is an ironic circumstance. Coming to terms that I was unable to perform myself, I focused my energy to help others develop the same passions that I have. With that Artists in Action was born. AIA is an International Dance Festival which aims to promote the dignity, integrity and public image of the dance profession. It provides professional and semi-professional artists a platform to present their work, learn, and connect dancers with some of the most influential role models in the arts from around the world, including our inaugural event partner Cirque Du Soleil. In other words we’re trying to connect aspiring artists with those that have reached the top of their field.  It is tremendous what can come from that sharing.

We have had choreographers from the New York City Ballet, to choreographers from the Michael Jackson “This Is It” tour, to SYTYCD finalists come in to perform and share knowledge. We also give out dance training scholarships and residencies from all over the world to help continue outstanding participant’s growth. It is such a positive and passionate event! The energy and electricity that burns through the theatre during performances and classes is what drives me to keep the event running.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to discuss?

I’ve always been passionate about film, and experimenting with different forms to express ideas. I teamed up with some experts in the film industry to explore dance, and wound up with a fantastic, and cinematically artful piece of work entitled “A Full Circle”.   It will be hitting the film festival circuit in November, debuting at the San Francisco Film festival.

What are your leisure activities?

Robin Merchant Underwater Photography Blog

One of my favorite creative outlets and new passion is underwater photography. Coming from a dance background I love the idea of defying gravity, and the creative process that goes into making shots underwater look artistic. Plus playing an underwater choreographer has been the greatest rehabilitation for my spinal injury! Check out my work at

Thank you.

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