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Trained classical dancer Alpa Sharma is helping children with Down syndrome find their creative side

A trained Kathak and Bharatanatyam dancer, Alpa Desai Sharma is imparting her skills to youngsters with Down syndrome. As a parent to a child with this condition, Alpa has the gentle touch and patience needed to get the children up and moving!

Before she got married Alpa Desai Sharma, who has a degree in Kathak and Bharatnatyam dance, would teach children with disabilities at the Eklavya School in Ahmedabad. It's a class she especially enjoyed and looked forward to.

Fast forward to some years later when Alpa's daughter, who has Down syndrome, showed a keen interest in dance. "My daughter Mohina showed great affinity and interest in dance and music. She was attuned to the beat, rhythm and taal and would change her steps instinctively".

That led Alpa, who runs a centre called Dharohar Dance Academy to start weekend classes for children with Down syndrome on the auspicious occasion of Vasant Panchami six months ago.

I had taught children with disabilities earlier and had a special corner for them. Even at my centre, I had taught such children when approached by their families. I am quite spiritual by nature and when my daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome, it was like God had prepared me to do this. I felt I should give back to society and help my daughter and other kids like her. - Alpa Desai Sharma, Dance teacher

Every weekend, Saturdays and Sundays, Alpa holds hour-long classes at a place in the Satellite area for children with Down syndrome for free. "I am teaching children with Down syndrome for now as I have a strong connection with these kids because of my daughter", she says.

The classes start off with warm up exercises in dance steps usually to Bollywood beats. "This always gets the kids moving and after they are warmed up, we gradually switch to folk and semi-classical forms".

About seven children come for the classes regularly and they have held performances too. Alpa has taught them various dance forms like the Garba, Chogada, etc. On Independence Day, they performed a semi-classical dance at a local school.

Alpa says she plans to stage such performances on different occasions and festivals to create awareness about Down syndrome. Most of the children in her class are between 13-19 years of age. There are some as young as five, while the oldest is 23.

Dr Vaishali Hyderabadi, a geneticist and co-founder of Down Syndrome Welfare Club in the city, believes Alpa is offering a rare opportunity to these children.

"Children with Down syndrome have a creative side that never gets channelized as many of them are not accepted in mainstream classes". Even those who do don't always find teachers who are sensitized." Alpa being a mother to a child with Down syndrome knows what they need. With her the kids love to dance and its great fun for us to see them enjoying themselves".

Mamta Pravin Sharma's daughter Akanksha has been attending the classes from the start. "I love dancing to the songs about Bappa", says the 23-year-old, who travels nearly an hour to attend the Alpa's classes. "Akanksha loves to dance and Alpa is so dedicated that my daughter loves to go", adds Mamta. "Teaching these kids is a challenge and Alpa is do loving and patient with them"

Minalbehn Patel's son Om, who is 15, is also a regular. "Om has given two performances and loves the classes. He has a group of friends there now and so do I", says Minalbehn. "Alpa goes stepwise so these children can follow easily and its great that she follows the festival. As a mother to a child with DS, she knows how to handle Om. If he is not in the mood to dance, she handles him accordingly. It takes me 45 minutes one way to get to the class, but I never miss".

Want to know more. Call Alpa Desai Sharma at +91 9898110966

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