Placed alongside the likes of Marzi Pestonji, Chitrangda Singh’s appointment on the judging panel of a dance reality show may seem misplaced. However, not many know that the actor is a trained Kathak dancer. Even then, she doesn’t consider herself adept enough to point out technical errors.

Prod her on why she makes for a suitable judge for the fourth edition of Dance India Dance Li’l Masters – which also marks her TV debut – and she says, “I am not among the best dancers. But, being an actor, I understand how to connect with the audience and showcase emotions. I can judge whether or not a contestant can connect with them, and how s/he emotes.” Getting Singh’s nod was no mean feat for the makers of the long-running show. “The makers showed me several dance videos [of previous seasons]. I realised I knew only three to four styles from the entire lot, and was ready to hang up my boots. But then, I could also analyse if a performance would move the audience or not, and that ability was what the channel needed.” In a bid to do justice as mentor, Singh says she attended several workshops to learn about dance forms.

While reality shows, by their very nature, are competitive, showing the door to young dancers can be heartbreaking. Singh admits that while she assumed it would be a daunting task, she did not know how demanding it was until they began to roll. “I always thought the show was scripted. But the children and their parents’ dreams and tears are all real.”

Yet, the show never lets emotions get in the way of recognising true talent. She recollects, “A single mother had come with her kids for the auditions after work. We volunteered to help educate her kids [given their financial condition]. But, that didn’t cloud our judgment about their dancing skills. They didn’t make it to the next level.”