Dynamic Duo

The Boy Who Danced on Air Stars Troy Iwata & Nikhil Saboo Talk Star-Crossed Lovers, Finding Badass Strength and Perspective, & Sharing This Untold Story

June 1st, 2017 by

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The Boy Who Danced on Air Stars Troy Iwata & Nikhil Saboo...

Troy Iwata (left) and Nikhil Saboo (right) make smashing off-Broadway debuts as Paiman and Feda, two young dancing boys in Afghanistan who fall in love with each other despite their masters objections, in the daring new musical based on the PBS Frontline documentary, The Boy Who Danced on Air. Scroll on as the dynamic duo talks to BroadwayBox about exposing this story to a wider audience, making each other laugh & cry, and their own signature dance moves.

Troy Iwata- Nikhil Saboo- Boy Who Danced on Air Musical

Photo by Maria Baranova



My first impression of him:

Troy:
Firm handshake, good cheekbones, how does he spell his name? Then the first time we read through our scenes I thought, “Oh sh*t, he’s so natural and interesting. This is gonna be fun.” It’s always exciting to work with someone so willing to just dive in and make mistakes, and Nikhil was eager to do just that.

Nikhil:
I obviously looked him up before meeting him after the first cast email went out. I remember saying out-loud, “Oh sheesh y'all, this boy can sing!” In person though—I remember digging his hipster-urban-chic look with beanie, light bomber jacket, glasses and all.


My favorite moment we share onstage:

Troy:
Is it bad to say our bows? It’s just that by that point I’m like, “We did it. I’m so proud of us again.” I feel like going through this show is like when Snow White had to get through that haunted forest where all the trees were alive and even the dead ones were crocodiles, but then drench the forest in molasses. I don’t know what I’m saying, I love sharing the stage with Nikhil.

Nikhil:
When I get to sit at the front of the stage and he sings an entire song to me. People may think I'm crying for circumstance reasons, but I'm actually crying because of how gorgeous Troy's voice is.


I’m in awe of his ability to:

Troy:
To exude this raw sensuality paired with an innocent vulnerability underneath it all, it’s fascinating and I can’t do it. He can also sing through his nose without sounding like Britney Spears and that’s nothing short of a party trick for me. 

Nikhil:
Have such variety and versatility in his acting. Troy can just do about anything from straight up comedy to heart melting heavy scenes. Also, how he can whip out the Australian accent on command. 


The most memorable day of rehearsal for me:

Troy:
The very first time we had the entire company together and just did a read-through. Usually those days are a little stop-and-go and awkward, but we all just vibed with each other and had a natural sense of the tone of the show, I remember thinking as I was going home, “That was shockingly smooth, I think this is gonna be fantastic.”

Nikhil:
Was during tech/previews when I got to sit down with Charlie Sohne and talk about my character, Feda. That conversation dug up some pivotal information for me. Thank you, Charlie! 


The most important piece of research I did for this piece:

Troy:
Watching the Frontline documentary The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, which is what inspired Charlie to write this piece. Seeing that world, interviews of actual dancing boys with their masters really broadened my perception of the piece. Listening to them talk about their reasonings as to why this tradition still exists, hearing it from their perspectives helped me find a humanity in it all, and that’s always one of my first obstacles, to drop all judgements and see the person inside.

Nikhil:
The documentary called The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan. Watch it—there are some clips on YouTube! 


My signature dance move is:

Troy:
The “What-Is-He-Doing-And-Why”.

Nikhil:
The Saboo Stance—just ask me if you want to see it. 


When I think iconic dancing in a music video, I think:

Troy:
“You Can’t Touch This”—MC Hammer (da-na-na-na…na-na…na-na)

Nikhil:
...there are just too many. Anything MJ, Usher, JT, etc...yarg, that's too hard to answer for me.


The most challenging part of this process has been:

Troy:
Lifting that Western lens and seeing the humanity in the piece. That brought up my own struggles when it came to finding Paiman. It’s really easy to fall into the misconception that there’s this boy who’s being mistreated and abused, yet he’s ok with it, even has a desire to stay, “Well he must be a naive airhead.” Quite the opposite. It was an exciting journey to find the perceptiveness and badass strength of Paiman, I love playing him.

Nikhil:
Doing double duty. Woof. Rehearsing for two shows at once was a new challenge for me. Even though it was hard at points in time, I was always amazed by how much we can do as people when all your energy is conjured and emitted out of yourself. A place where there is infinite love, exploration, and hard work. I had never pushed myself so hard, but challenge accepted and challenge completed.


The most rewarding part of this process has been:

Troy:
Telling a story that is incomparable to any other I can think of. I think all actors prefer to look for projects that tell an untold story, that broaden our minds and have a genuine need to be shared. I’ve had the honor of working with Tim & Charlie on a few of their projects and one thing that’s consistent in each piece is a unique voice and perspective that I’ve never seen anywhere else. There’s an importance and purpose to their work that goes beyond entertainment. Also sharing the theater with this incredible team is greater than any drug I haven’t tried…..I don’t do drugs.

Nikhil:
Sharing the show itself. This show is about a topic I believe many don't know anything about. To be a part of this vehicle that transports, educates, and exposes people this topic is the most rewarding. I'm so proud to tell this story. 


My favorite fictional story of star-crossed love:

Troy:
Tomato Soup & Cheez-Its.

Nikhil:
I instantly think Disney for some reason...so then I think Aladdin and Jasmine. Star-crossed love while flying within them.

See Troy and Nikhil in the Abingdon Theatre Company's New York premiere of The Boy Who Danced on Air at the June Havoc Theatre through June 11.