Shiamak Davar spreads joy & fitness with online dance classes for people with disabilities
Indian choreographer Shiamak Davar is known not just for his electrifying performances but also philanthropy. During this lockdown his organisation Victory Arts Foundation is ensuring that children with disabilities stay happy and active. There are free online dance classes that are open to children and youth across disability types.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, the mood in the Patel household in Goregaon, Mumbai is noticeably upbeat. “As soon as she wakes up my daughter Kinjal starts preparing for the 5 pm online dance classes”, says Harsha Patel, a smile in her voice. Kinjal, 30, has Down syndrome and loves to dance. She has been learning dance at Shiamak Davar’s Victory Arts Foundation (VAF) for nearly 15 years.
After the coronavirus lockdown came into force, the classes are now held on Zoom. Apart from the regular sessions, the foundation conducts two classes free every week.
“Kinjal took to the online classes quite smoothly”, says Harsha. “She misses the experience of dancing in a group and meeting other students, but she is happy to attend them like this as well. She is used to following exercise videos on YouTube, so this was not strange for her”.
Dance classes free for disabled people
The aim of these classes, Shiamak Davar tells Newz Hook, was simple. “It is give them the joy that transcends. Also, I wanted classes that cater to their needs specifically as no one was doing it and anything I can do to bring them joy, I won’t think twice about it, ever”.
There were some initial hurdles to cross like ensuring Internet connectivity and space hurdles. Every class was a learning experience and from four students, today there are over 70 enrolled for the online classes.
Many parents have been dancing along with their children and it has been a wonderful sight. Parents have been helping in all possible ways as they see the happiness it brings to their child. They have been the child’s technical support, dance instructors and partners and so much more. We encourage the parents to join the kids as the happiness just doubles! – Shiamak Davar, Indian choreographer & philanthropist
Classes held for people across disability types
The classes are open to children and youth of different disabilities. There are dance students with autism, and intellectual disabilities. Among the regulars is Pallavi Nair, 22, who has Price Robin syndrome, a rare developmental defect characterised by mild to moderate intellectual disability and psycho-motor delays.
“Pallavi started attending Shiamak Davar’s classes about three years ago after my niece recommended them”, says mom Reji Nair. Pallavi is a regular presence at the VAF’s annual show. “She loves the online classes, especially dancing to Bollywood hit tunes”, says Reji.
For Fatima Sheikh, the online dance classes have been a blessing. “My son Usaid had a tough time in the initial lockdown period. His anxiety levels were high as he was missing his friends and social activities”. Usaid, a graphic designer, has autism and the unpredictability of the situation was hard to handle.
Shiamak’s live online dance classes helped lift his mood, says Fatima.
‘Teaching with love’
“When the classes started in the first week of April, Usaid started following the instructors and practising at home. He shared his videos and tagged his teachers. Their praise and encouragement motivated him and made him happy. It was a big relief for me as it kept him physically active for a minimum of two hours every day”. “The classes make me happy and keep me active and fit”, adds Usaid.
All parents need to do is download the Zoom app and use a tablet or laptop with a camera. “Your child does not need to be dancer”, adds Fatima. “Any individual with special needs can join these classes. They are free and the teachers teach with love”.
The classes are held every Wednesday and Saturday between 5 pm to 6 pm. There are children joining from various cities across India like Jaipur, Delhi, Ahmedabad, etc. “I am so grateful we could increase the number just through word of mouth and I want more kids to come and benefit from these classes, so I have kept it absolutely free of cost”, says Shiamak. “The feedback from the parents has been amazing and reinstates our belief that Have Spirit. Will Triumph!”
If you want to enrol you can reach Victory Arts Foundation through Instagram or Facebook. Share the details about your child and the link will be shared. The classes are on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 5-6 pm.
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