Dancing through difficulties: the art has helped these children overcome life’s hurdles

Students of Shiamak Dawar’s Victory Arts Foundation stole hearts with their performances at a show in the city on World Disability Day

Over 450 children with disabilities, and underprivileged children came on the stage to showcase their dance performances in the city on World Disability Day.

These children expressed how dance can heal the body and mind at the annual dance presentation of Victory Arts Foundation, a NGO run by choreographer Shiamak Dawar, on Wednesday.

Amongst those putting up performances were children with disabilities, children dealing with depression and anxiety, children of construction workers, rag pickers, sex workers, and homeless children. One of the highlights of the day was an aerial act.

Gaining confidence

Fatima Shaikh, the mother of a participant, said her son was autistic, which made him sensitive to sound and unable to multi-task. “Usaid started dancing four years ago, and it has helped him remain calm even when there is a lot of noise. Earlier, he used to have severe anxiety but now he is not as afraid of socialising. I believe that the more he dances and goes on stage, he feels confident about himself.”

Nilam Verma, mother to 19-year-old Jay, said, “He suffers from Down syndrome. I have noticed that many children with Down syndrome love music and Jay is one of them. Earlier, he was not able to even call out our names but after he started dancing, he is able to speak and can interact with people.”

Kamala Lakshmi, the mother of another participant said, “Sudha went through an open-heart surgery at the age of one. Today, she is 18 but suffers from Down syndrome. She started dancing at an early age and her passion has grown over the years. She has been with the Victory Arts Foundation for 12 years and I have constantly seen a lot of improvement in her.”

Shubham Gupta (23), who has a speaking and hearing impairment expressed his feelings in sign language. Mr. Gupta has three siblings, all of whom are differently-abled like him.

Earning a living

“Earlier, my siblings and I were at the Hellen Keller institute. Mr. Dawar and his team once put up a show there when I was 13. I participated in the dance performance and got the opportunity to join Victory Arts Foundation. It has been 10 years now, and I am a dance instructor at the foundation itself. I teach other children, including those who are differently-abled. I can also handle my own expenses now, which is quite difficult for must persons with disabilities.”

Mr. Dawar said he has been teaching these children for 30 years. “Once, a polio-affected girl came to me and expressed her wish to dance. I enrolled her in my academy and after a year, she said she was able to move her leg. At that time, I was left in a shock. I couldn’t believe that dance could bring such changes in one year, so, I started teaching more underprivileged children and those with disabilities…Dance also helps people stay away from addiction of drugs and alcohol,” he said.

The choreographer said most of his students were now instructors at the academy and he tries his best to get them employed in movies and other events as well. “These dance presentations are just an attempt to give them a stage. My team goes to teach them every day at different NGOs and schools we have collaborated with,” he said.

Parveen Mistry, head of operations at the NGO, said, “We want to bring about change. We want them to look beyond their disabilities and feel that they are just like the others.”

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