Dancing away the pandemic blues: An out-of-the-box way to tide over gloom

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Rahul Gupta, a dance teacher at a Qatar school, narrates how he and his pupils took the help of classical dance to fight the Covid-19 pandemic gloom, and, in fact, to emerge stronger mentally and emotionally
By Ahmad Hamood

Extraordinary circumstances call for out-of-the-box solutions. In terms of scale and global reach, the Covid-19 pandemic has wrought upon mankind, arguably, the greatest challenge it has faced ever. In December 2019, who would have thought about the shape of things to come, or that a virus was soon going to bring the global economy to a screeching halt and inflict such a heavy toll on lives and livelihood?

However, apart from the untold miseries brought about by the pandemic of the 21st Century, there have been countless tales of equally sturdy fightback aided and abetted by the spirit of humanity.

To cope up with the huge mental stress and deep anxieties and trauma that the pandemic has brought about, people have resorted to a range of activities and practices. One such out-of-the-box way of combating the pandemic gloom has been practised successfully by a classical dance instructor and his pupils based in Qatar – the country that is set to host next year’s FIFA World Cup.

Rahul Gupta with his son Rahul Gupta during a dance practice. (Picture provided by Rahul Gupta)

“I wish to share my views on how important physical activity has been during the lockdown. As the pandemic pressed on, people have found innovative ways to come together. One of them is classical dance,” says Rahul Gupta, a dance teacher at a school in Qatar.

“Dance transcends all barriers and boundaries. In this kala [art] there is no race, religion, age, or colour. It’s just about the joy of rhythm. A joy you experience when you celebrate the diversities. There is this power in dance to bring people together in one voice. Classical dance has always been used in various ways, be it prayers, or celebrations,” says Gupta, who is currently in India and has been carrying on the teaching work online for the past months like millions of his peers across the pandemic-impacted globe.

Shreyasi Jaiswal (Picture provided by Rahul Gupta)

“It is amazing what the virtual world has done to us globally in making the world such a smaller place. I feel that my bit, my contribution to this is in encouraging people to dance their blues away.”

Gupta, who has taught in Qatar for several years, says that students who enrol in his Bharatanatyam dance classes, do so for a slew of reasons. “Some want to make a career in dance, others want to tone up their bodies, while some want to get rid of their inhibitions of dancing at public shows and just have fun.”

“However, one quest binds every student, which is that dance frees the mind and soul,” he explains.

“Physical activity, as in dance, not only promotes chemical balance but also deepens the mind-body connection.”

So, how has been the experience of online teaching, this writer asks him. “In the beginning, teaching on an online platform seemed quite strange to me. However, I challenged myself to be in tune with the new system immediately,” he replies.

“Now, everything is perfect and I am able to interact with students without any interruptions. It’s just like regular classes earlier,” says Gupta, a professional dancer and dance trainer who’s been teaching Bharatnatyam and different types of Western and Indian dance forms to children, adults and those with disabilities over the past 14 years.

As for the response from the parents, he says it’s been inspiring and positive. The online classes have a few advantages as they provide an opportunity to parents to get involved in classes and ascertain how the teacher is interacting with students, he says, adding, “it’s refreshing for parents who are also passionate about classical dance”.

Yashaswani (Picture provided by Rahul Gupta)

Bharat Gupta, the son of Rahul Gupta and a student of class VI, concurs with the views of his father. “During the lockdown times, the one thing that kept me occupied and happy was my Bharatanatyam,” he points out.

Shreyasi Jaiswal, a student of grade VI at a school in Doha, echoes Bharat’s views saying that during the lockdown, when the whole world was sitting at home and getting bored, it was the online dance classes that helped to lighten her mood and lift the spirits.

“Dance also helps boost immunity as it’s a form of exercise and keeps the mind free from scepticism,” notes Shreyasi, who started showing an interest in classical dance at a very early age. She has performed well at the school level and has taken part in several competitions winning many prizes.

Yashaswini, a student of grade V at a school in Qatar, realises the importance of physical activity, especially dance, for mental and emotional health.

“Dance is my passion. I love to dance as it makes me happy. I have been learning Bharatnatyam since I was in grade II. In this Covid situation we were missing school but because of the online classes we were able to continue with our favourite Bharatanatyam,” she says.

“It was like one positive thing happening during the lockdown,” she avers.

[This article has been used here in arrangement with www.thenewsporter.com, where it was first published; Main featured Image by dshah from Pixabay]

Ahmad Hamood is a freelance journalist currently pursuing his management studies from Mumbai. He takes up freelance assignments occasionally and likes to write on subjects close to his heart.

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