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When kids learn life lessons through dance

Published : Jul 5, 2016, 7:06 am IST
Updated : Jul 5, 2016, 7:06 am IST

Dance has always been a great medium to teach children different aspects of life. It is not only a process to learn a form or a movement.

Dance has always been a great medium to teach children different aspects of life. It is not only a process to learn a form or a movement. Dance is a lifestyle, dance educates, motivates, dance brings strangers together. Two individuals who do not know each other can become best of friends while training in dance. A dance preparation can teach a few lessons for to stay for a life time. I wonder if you believe all that I am saying, if not then I am sure after reading this story.

Recently, I was invited to Delhi to conduct a dance workshop for 500 street and slum children. Titled Taare Zameen Par, the workshop was followed by a show at Rahagri at Connaught Place by NGO Plan India in association with Smita Bharti and supported by Alka Bahadur of Sakshi NGO. The purpose of this entire training was not to make the underprivileged children great dancers or artistes, but to make them discover themselves through the process of Art.

This self-discovering session planned by Plan India was held over five days. ‘Social Arts for Behaviour Change’ was the main motto of the workshop. Gathering 500 children who are connected to the streets and slums of Delhi itself was a task but once they came together, making them understand their potential was very simple. I believe in it because I have seen the magic the dance, music and drama. Kids are like a blank sheet of paper or are like clay. Like my dance guru Ewa Maria Cherukuru once said, ‘Children are like flowing water, they fit into any container you put them into. It is up to us what the container’s shape, size and purpose is.’

The main aim of the workshop was to identify peer educators amongst the children so that they become the champions of change and gain awareness to support the on ground programme of making Delhi a begging free zone at the traffic signals. The children who are part of Plan India’s community development programmes in Delhi that focus on raising awareness on child rights, building children’s participation as active citizens and strengthening child protection mechanisms.

The five-day workshop focused on enhancing the creative capabilities of children through various components such as Dance adventure, theatre, films, storytelling, mask theatre, puppetry, street art and diary writing. The 500 children were assembled by Plan Partners, Alamb, CASP, Anchal, Nav Srishti, Chetna, SPYM, Baliga Trust, and Bal Vikas Dhara.

My team, Ankita Dolawat and Ashutosh Arya, set dance routines for these 500 most amazing lot of kids on three famous Bollywood tracks — Go Go Go Govinda, Hafte Mein Chaar Shanivar and Indiawale apart from that Smita Bharti had written a theme song Bakar Bakar which spoke of the life the street kids normally lead and what their ambitions are deep within. But like I said this workshop was not about teaching them dance moves, it was to make them discover themselves and their potential.

While learning a twist step in the routine, a young boy named Sachin told me, “Sir, my legs are weak, I am not able to sit down and getup fast enough. I think as soon I get home this evening I will start doing squats so that my legs become stronger and I can perform better.” Dancing made him realise his weak points and at the same time gave him the enthusiasm to make himself better. Is that not the magic of dance

Two girls Padma and Rachna from different NGO’s who did not know each other at all, were made dance partners, they exchanged pleasantries and started to help each other with their posture, hand moves and steps. It was so wonderful to see how, two very different kids were there supporting each other, helping one another. Isn’t that also called Magic of Dance

Shah Rukh, no not our Bollywood Baadshah, but a nine-year-old boy who’s daily work was to pick up plastic bags from garbage bins came the third day with a injured toe, as a blade had cut his foot the night before while he was at his job picking up plastic from the dustbin near his area. He came to workshop and said, “Sorry sir, my foot is injured, my mother said not to go for class, but I did not want to miss the steps so I have come. I will try and dance but may not be able to do it with full energy.” My heart went out to the cute boy because through dance he the meaning of dedication and will power.

Another girl, 12-year-old Swati, would always look down while talking and walking completely displayed her lack of confidence. At the end of the workshop when I asked her what she had learnt in these classes, she said, “I saw the world, sir. I learnt to look up and enjoy everything around me.” Her words brought tears to my eyes. Using dance as a ladder this child realised that looking down would never let her see the beauty around her. Kudos to the art of dancing which makes all of us discover ourselves in so many different ways that we may not even be aware of.

This was just dance but I am sure through other art mediums that were present there kids would have really looked within themselves. The environment created during the workshop by Bhagyashri Dengle, the director of Plan India, and Smita Bharti of Sakshi facilitated the participants to see, hear and think for themselves as meaningful and productive members of society, against the backdrop of creative, adventure based, meditative and substantive inputs.

Many other well-known personalities as facilitated the children to understand themselves with activities ranging from creative to adventure, meditation, substantive to self-defense.

Other teachers included Vikram Mohan and Anil Mishra for stomping, artists Rekha Bahl and Rajesh Bahl for masks and street art, Jaya Iyer with her team for theatre, well known actor director, Milind Gawali, and N Shivapriya for substantive, Vinay, Raju and team from Kaya Kalp Puppeteers, Monika and Gaurav, both black belts, Avinash Desokar and Bimla Desokar, renowned mountaineers, and Vasant Hankare known for his inspiring motivational talks.

Sandip Soparrkar is a choreographer. He can be contacted on sandipsoparrkar06@gmail.com