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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Beauty in Movement

The efforts of this kathak teacher is bringing out the best in her hearing-impaired and mute students

Written by Tushar Meshram |
June 18, 2012 1:12:15 am

The efforts of this kathak teacher is bringing out the best in her hearing-impaired and mute students

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Wise words like these have found resonance amongst countless people. Shilpa Datar is one such person who has been passionately involved in teaching Kathak dance to children since the past 16 years. What is remarkable is that a significant percentage of her students are differently-abled,mostly hearing-impaired or mute. These students from the Red Cross school receive training in kathak dance for free,all thanks to the sincere and dedicated efforts put in by Datar. “It all started long ago when I was moved by the plight of these children. Speaking to them and getting them to understand what I was trying to them was very difficult. Even asking a child with hearing impairment his/her name was a challenge,” says Datar.

But the spirit and energy possessed by these kids impressed her enough to make her start the classes. “It took a lot of energy and hard work. I had to hold the students and guide them through the movements since they could not hear the music. They gradually began imitating my movements and became deeply involved. Seeing the smiles on their faces brought me a lot of joy,” says Datar. Learning sign language to communicate with the deaf students also helped her. Apart from earning a masters degree in Kathak dance,she has also received training under eminent Kathak exponents like Maneesha Sathe and Pandit Birju Maharaj.

Teaching dance to children is a form of social responsibility that Datar has undertaken. She even runs her own Shilpa Nrityalaya Trust with the intention of providing scholarships to hearing-impaired and mute students. “Even though the children are talented and brimming with confidence,some parents aren’t supportive of them. A few parents are even in a hurry to get their daughters married off. They believe that letting the child cultivate talent isn’t going to help them survive.”

In spite of hurdles like these,perseverance prevails and the hope of seeing smiles on the faces of her students keeps Datar going. While it takes two to three months to get students to learn the moves to one song,students with hearing impairment are able to work with utmost concentration since they are not distracted by anything else. Students are also able to recognise hard and soft beats and even question their teacher when doubts arise. At live performances,people are very appreciative of the display of talent and when they come to know that the dancers are differently-abled,they willingly offer help. Currently,about 100 students receive formal training in Kathak,out of whom 30-40 having hearing-impairment.

A documentary,made on Datar and one of her hearing-impaired students,Jaidevi Apraj,explores the teaching and learning process of kathak dance between these special children and Datar. “I feel it’s a better responsibility to work with children from lesser-privileged families. I will continue to work with them and continue to bring out the best in them.”

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