“Of all the achievements, the association all of us at Instyle are most proud of is the one we have forged with the Blind People’s Association (BPA), a well-known NGO based in Ahmedabad,” says Ahmedabad-based dance choreographer and teacher Hiren Patel. A member of International Dance Council (CID), Hiren Patel started his school in Ahmedabad in 2005 and according to him, it was affiliated to World Dance Council (under the aegis of UNESCO), 8 months ago and became Instyle International School of Dance. They are about to commence their own Diploma/Degree Programs in dance for normal as well as special students. A team of 23 instructors teach diverse forms of dance including hip-hop, salsa, jive, waltz and tango, contemporary and Indian dances. They specialize in Indian folk dances, particularly the Gujarati inheritance of garba, considered unique because it is played out during the world’s longest ever ethnic dance festival Navratri. All his students usually get invites to perform in dance events.
The Institute: Hiren says, “A fifth center is underway and by now, I’m associated with more than 15 reputed colleges-universities in my city/state, as dance trainer and choreographer. We organize at least two full-fledged dance shows every year, where we showcase the talent and learning of our students, many of whom are as young as 3 or 4. And in addition to in-house dance sessions, we choreograph several external events, many of which are prestigious and coveted by dance institutes across the country.”
The NGO: The BPA, headquartered in Ahmedabad, is home to blind, deaf and dumb students with other centers in all the Indian states. Hiren says, “At Instyle, we decided to try and brighten their lives with dance. We have been doing so since 2005 and by now, several students of the BPA have performed at regional as well as national events. Now, our association is six years old and continues to grow with every passing day. At Instyle, we feel we have learnt just as much from them as they from us. I am looking forward to give these children a special stage and platform to showcase their talent and abilities. These children come from poorer background without any supporting funds to back up their talent and nurture them. We recently performed with blind children at America when Chalo Gujarat-The World Gujarati Conference had invited us to New Jersey.”
Difficulty in teaching: Hiren reminisces that he started his journey with these special children 7 years ago. At that time these children were new to the world of dance. He says, “I initially started teaching them dance holding their hands and explaining them various movements in the best way possible. Because they could not visualize, I tried explaining them the situations and giving name to those steps. So the next time when the same step was repeated, I would use the same name and they would recognize the step. Thus the unconditional mutual efforts of 7 years finally resulted in the best performances. Today if you see these children dancing, I bet you would never realize that they cannot see. They have great coordination and passion in every step they perform. These children are in age group of 15 to 25 years. I have taught them different styles like Bollywood, Folk Dance, Prayer Dance, Hip-Hop, Bhangra and many others. The duration of one performance is 5 to 8 minutes and one program is between 1 to 3 hours.”
Audience and their reaction: Hiren says that the crowd gathered to see their performance solely depends on the type of event. If these children participate in events like college fest or college annual function then it is a young and passionate crowd. If they perform at the institute or national level, then the crowd has prominent personalities from Gujarat and guest celebrities in the city they are performing. He says, “I have always believed in giving my best performance putting in passion and hard work. I teach the same to my students, whether they are normal children or the special ones. On our recent trip to the US with these children, I made them perform on the famous Gujarati lullaby by Manhar Udhas, Dikro Maro Ladakvayo… (My child, my beloved…). To my utmost surprise and honor every mother sitting in the crowd had tears in their eyes and at the end of the performance we got a standing ovation from 20,000 guests present. These children have always stood up with pride without taking anybody’s mercy or help and whatever they have achieved so far is result of their passion and hard work. I am glad that I have been able to serve the purpose of humanity through these children which is otherwise lost in this technologically equipped practical world.”
This article was previously published in Eve’s Times magazine and it has been reproduced here with the permission of the editor, Swati Amar.