DANCE @ DISABILITY

Rishi Majumder discovers that dance is a great source of recreation for those suffering from arthritis and other joint problems

Photographer: Rana Chakraborty

Mr and Mrs Gonsalves
Stella Gonsalves: I’m doing a waltz to tell people how much my quality of life has improved after this surgery.

Deepak Bakshi: I’ve never danced before, even at weddings.

Aruna Bhide: Seeing my daughters practice at home made me want to dance.

Diana Dhote (giggles): Instead of ‘Arts In Motion’, this could be ‘Arthritis In Motion.’

Chaya Jain: I was into sports and dancing for 12 years, before my arthritis. It feels great to be back.

Gonsalves, a retired school teacher at 76, has waltzed only on two brief occasions since her knee replacement surgery three years ago. “I wanted to take it easy. Only my family knows the worry we went through during the surgery,” she recounts. “But then my doctor asked me one day: ‘Do you dance? You must dance then’!” And so, she’s practicing a waltz with her husband for the Arts In Motion (AIM) Annual Dance Fest next week. Bakshi, an engineer and arthritis patient has been dragged to the floor for the first time by his daughter, who he’ll be dancing with. Bhide, also arthritic, while having organised umpteen cultural functions for her residential complex, has never danced herself, till now. Dhote’s joined the show’s training programme without intimating family, breaking the news to her husband only recently on a romantic weekend. And Jain, for whom arthritis meant an end to her Bharatnatyam, squash and karate callings, has gotten her husband, a doctor, to join the programme with her. Dr Jain, incidentally, is a pain specialist. Some pain is best alleviated via the simplest means.
Haneef Hilal, model and famed dance choreographer (Jhalak Dikhla Ja is one of his cap feathers), directs the group as they sway and slide across the AIM studio floor. Hilal, passionate about dancing, has seen his mother go through extreme pain because of a knee joint problem. Training people suffering from a physical disability for the show deals double edge to his passion. “The enthusiasm and determination these people have is amazing, even though most of them are first time dancers,” he observes. “We’ve chosen waltz because the steps are
simple and don’t involve too much of exertion.” While the Gonsalves’ work on a strict waltz solo, the others dance to a synchronised “Bollywood-cumwaltz improvisation”.
“Recreational Sports” is the name Dr Harish Bende, the ortheopaedician who conducted Gonsalves’ knee replacement surgery, uses for activities like dancing, walking, tennis and badminton doubles and a 6.5 km per hour session on the treadmill. The purpose of these activities, post a physical disability, is “to boost one’s quality of life”, without risking life itself. Dancing, besides being such a “recreational sport”, also serves as a form of expression beyond words, essential to patients who need more than words to express what they en
dure. “The most ecstatic reactions I remember were from patients who were told they could do the garba or dance on New Year’s and Christmas Eve,” Bende remembers.
There are other reasons for this group’s ecstasy. One is the fact that they’ll be on stage. “It’s a challenge,” they claim collectively. Established professionals and service people in their own right, mental challenges are something they’re used to facing. But they feel their respective disabilities will have to be faced physically, before an audience, for a true test of triumph. “Also, we’ll be telling many others to do the same,” Bhide adds.
They’ve also found dancing adding a strange quality to already established relationships. Be it Bakshi discovering
another layer of understanding in the waltz with his daughter, or the Jains’ dance sessions transcending into a weekly “togetherness habit”. “The classes occur during my clinic timings, yet I haven’t missed one till date,” smiles Dr Jain.
Dhote laughs and remarks that while people are normally warned “don’t drink too much” before parties, she is constantly told to “stay away from the dance floor”. Family and friends — in a bid to protect loved ones suffering from a physical ailment — often cry hoarse at every movement that might further it as such, creating innumerable psychological ailments in turn. The group at the studio agrees that dancing for two to three hours at a stretch has often caused them a lot of
pain. Their reaction to such, however, is best summed up in Chaya Jain’s words: “I tried to get back to kickboxing and there was pain. During household activities there is pain. But this pain, ‘I’m loving it’.”

DANCE WITH ME:

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Harish Bende lists out the activities to avoid if you have joint problems:

• Repetitive Impact Games like skipping, jogging, running or aerobic activity.

• Body Contact Games like football, hockey

• Lifting Heavy Objects like weights, though toning up with lighter weights may be okay

• Foot stomping, during dance sessions.

This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/wdym

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