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, it educates, motivates and brings strangers together. Two individuals who do not know each other can become best of friends after dance training. A dance preparation can teach few lessons for a life time. I wonder if you believe what I am saying, if not then after reading this story you will surely do.
Recently, I was invited to our Indian capital to conduct a dance lesson for 500 street and slum children of Delhi. This workshop titled ‘Taare Zameen Par’ which was followed by a show at Rahagri at Cannought Place was organized by theNGO 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 artists, but to help them discover themselves through the process of Art.
This self-discovering session planned by Plan India was organized over five days.’Social Arts for Behaviour Change’ was the main motto of this unique workshop. Getting 500 children who are connected to the streets and slums of Delhi itself was a task but once they did come together, making them understand their potential was very simple. I believe in it because I have seen the Magic the art of Dance, Music and Drama does. Kids are like a blank sheet of paper, they are like clay or 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 containers 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 program of making Delhi a begging free zone at the traffic signals. The children are a 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, NavSrishti, Chetna, SPYM, Baliga Trust, and Bal Vikas Dhara.
My team of Ankita Dolawat and Ashutosh Arya set dances for these 500 most amazing lot of kids on three famous Bollywood Tracks. Go Go Go Govinda, Hafte Mein Chaar Shanivar and India wale 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. Let me tell you a few life changing lessons which they learnt and I am sure you too unconsciously have or will be learning them if you are a dancer.
While learning a twist step in the dance a young boy named Sachin told me, ‘Sir my legs are weak, I am not able to sit down fully and getup, I think as soon I get home this evening I will start doing squats so that my legs will become stronger and I can perform better.’ Don’t you think dance made him realize his weak points and at the same time gave him the positivity to work to make himself better? Is that not a 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 9 year old boy whose daily work was to pick up plastic bags from garbage bins came the third day with an injured toe, as a blade had cut his foot a 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 the class, but I did not want to miss the steps so I have come. I will try and dance but might not be able to do it with full energy.’ My heart went out to this cute boy, because through dance he unknowingly learnt the meaning of dedication and will power. What would you call this incident? I would say yet another Magic of Dance.
Another girl Swati who would always look down while talking and walking completely displayed her under confident nature. At the end of five days, 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 12 year old girl realized that looking down would never let her see the beauty around her. Kudos to the art of dance which makes all of us discover ourselves in so many different ways that we don’t even know.
This was just dance but I am sure, through other art mediums that were present there, kids would have really have looked within themselves. The environment created during the workshop by Bhagyashri Dengle Director 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 the creative, adventure based, meditative and substantive inputs.
Many other well known personalities also facilitated the children to understand themselves with activities ranging from creative to adventure, meditation, substantive to self-defense. Apart from me, other teachers were 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.
I am so glad that I was the lucky choreographer who was chosen to be a part of this exceptional event. It taught me too that the passion of dance that I have in me has made me who I am today, my personality, my nature, my behaviour is all somewhere or the other influenced by the art of Dance. I am sure all you dancers out there feel the same what I feel. Dance has its own magical ways to change lives, it has changed lives of these 500 kids for sure plus me added on the list and I hope you are on the never ending list too.
(Sandip Soparrkar is an internationally renowned Ballroom and Latin Dancer and a Choreographer, he has also made his name as one of the top Bollywood choreographers of India. He can be contacted on [email protected])