By Shilpi Madan
Numero uno dance master Shiamak Davar believes dance lets us learn, enjoy and work out at the same time. For kids, in these days of excessive screen consumption, dance is a great hobby to cultivate, says the indisputable guru of contemporary dance in India, having set the stage ablaze with his pathbreaking choreography in countless blockbusters including Dil to Pagal Hai, Taal… His expert National Award winning tutelage has brought out sparkling students in Varun Dhawan, Shahid Kapoor. His Summer Funk programmes have been a success for over 25 years now. Excerpts from a conversation with Express Parenting.
What does dance mean to you?
Dance means everything to me! Though I started out as a singer and theatre actor, dance became my mission in life eventually. Performing arts is what I knew and I simply followed my instinct. I believe everyone has a purpose in life, and mine is the performing arts. For me, dance is something that aligns the mind, body and the spirit. Dance heals. The last 30 years have brought in a revolution of sorts. The industry has opened up tremendously. Today arts and culture have become immensely popular and people no longer fear making their passion, their profession. This transitional change in thinking has opened up many doors.
Your oldest and youngest students ever?
Oldest would be around 84 years! The youngest would probably be a two-year-old in my dance class for the Kids Program.
What is the most rewarding part about working with children?
Kids are the best teachers. They are like clay, ready to be moulded in any way, and completely fearless. Their willingness to constantly learn is simply amazing.
What is the right age for kids to begin pursuing dance seriously if they want?
My motto has always been — “Have feet. Will dance.” I honestly believe everyone can dance. But in terms of understanding technique and giving yourself time to grow, starting out at four years is perfect.
How does training in dance help kids?
When dance is knitted to the curriculum it initiates collaborative effort, co-ordination, and co-operative teamwork between students. At school, children are more receptive to the process of learning and using dance as a medium of physical activity and creative medium works beautifully. With stage-based choreography, students are required to work as a collective unit which helps them understand each other and develop mutual trust. This creates a sense of a positive community where everyone grows together.
Yet if you were to zero in on the takeaway?
When we use dance as a medium of physical activity and as a creative medium in the education of children, we channelise their energy in a resourceful manner. At this point, the art of dance helps to develop skills, knowledge, and understanding.
Dance is a holistic activity for the mind, body and the soul. It aligns all these aspects, making every person aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to work on themselves. The benefits are tremendous.
Speaking in social media climes, what would you count as the biggest advantage for the young?
In these days of excessive screen consumption, dance is a great hobby to cultivate. It is the best free-weight exercise where you constantly engage your core — the powerhouse of your body. Dance makes you improve overall fitness, endurance and makes way for muscle toning. You know, in some countries, dance is viewed as a sport as it does involve cardio vascular/ aerobic fitness, core and strength training and stretches for flexibility. The concepts of contraction and extension, grounding, elongation, fall and recovery, control of muscles: all come with awareness and are enhanced through a fit body achieved through dance.
Parents often tell us that their children show an improvement in their academics because of our classes. The reason behind this is primarily that their focus increases as they have something to look forward to, they get to do what they like and enjoy. Also, many students who are introverts get a platform to express themselves and their personality develops through these classes. Not only to they learn dance, engage in a physical activity but also experience something that highlights their spirit. My aim is to provide quality dance education in India through a well-structured syllabus, inculcating correct technique and providing wholesome training to students of all ages.
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