A 5-year-old choreographed and danced on the tunes of ‘Mhare hiwda me nache mor’ in a local competition, and since then, dance became her life. Today, that little girl has turned into a choreographer who has completely transformed the lives of 50 grandmothers through dance.When Swati Kudrat Patel revealed her desire to make a Dadis’ Dance Group, everyone was shocked. People advised her to drop this idea immediately as they were sure that no elderly lady would be comfortable to dance on the stage. Moreover, they would have so many health issues that it would be difficult for Swati to make them ready for a grand performance.
“Since the age of five, I never had even a bit of doubt about my career. I always wanted to be a choreographer. But I would enjoy it more when I would get to teach those who could not even shake their legs. It gave me immense satisfaction,” says Swati.
She has completed masters in folk and has been assisting her Guru, Krupa Joshi, since the past few years. In 2012, when the dance reality shows became a big hit in the country, Swati wanted to do something different from training kids and mommies.
She would wonder why there were no grandmother groups in these shows. Thus, she decided to approach the women who were considered to be retired.
“Post-retirement is the best time to learn new things. But there are no institutes or classes for this age group. There might be hidden talents, there might be hidden hobbies or even hidden dreams that never came true,” she wonders.
To get a group within this age, Swati started visiting a nearby park where a group of elderly ladies had a laughter club. She explained to them how she wanted to inspire more elderly ladies to dance and learn new things; the women she spoke to, were more than happy to join her.
“I needed 15 of them for my group, but I selected 20, so that in case of any medical emergency too, the show would go on,” recalls Swati.
In July 2014, 15 Dadis got on the stage in Ahmedabad and left the audience spell-bound with their performance.
Since then, under the aegis of the JSK Academy, these Dadis have done many shows. They have even danced with a few of the best choreographers from Bollywood like Ganesh Acharya and Dharmesh.
However, their journey has not been easy!
Some Dadis had major health problems, some were all alone, and some had to take care of their grandchildren. It was hard to get them all to meet at the same time for practice sessions. But then Swati had kept them moving in every step, and even the Dadis have shown extraordinary courage.
67-year-old Latika Ben is suffering from frozen-shoulder and cannot lift her hand beyond a few inches, but she makes sure this problem did not affect the group’s performance.
Shilpa Thakkar, who is 62, has a rare disease wherein her nails grow backwards leaving her in immense pain. However, this has never come in her way of attending the practice sessions. She gets the nails cleaned, puts a bandage and leaves for the dance class just after a physiotherapy session.
Dance and the group have got a new charm to the Dadis’ lives. They look forward to the shows and love being with the team even after the sessions.
“I had learnt Bharatnatyam in my childhood, and then due to studies, job and family responsibilities, I completely stopped dancing. Dadis’ dance group got me my childhood back. I thought I might have forgotten the steps, but when I started dancing again, I realised that one never forgets the things they loved,” says 64-year-old Aruna Jambdekar. “Though I can’t jump and do the steps I still remember the hand gestures,” she laughs.
According to Aruna, these classes and shows have given them a new aim in life. The common ‘nothing to do’ attitude of the retired community has changed. They have a set routine now which keeps them energetic and motivated.
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What is the biggest challenge for Swati?
“They are just like kids! All of them want individual attention. All of them need love,” smiles Swati.
“But they will do things for you which you can expect only from grandmothers. After every show, I have a surprise waiting for me. They treat me like their child,” she continues to smile.
The shows run till late at night, which was again a matter of concern for most of the Dadis, but with the support of Swati’s husband, Kudarat, who is also a choreographer, and her in-laws, Swati manages to drop the Dadis to their homes safely after each show.
“Many Dadis in our group are widows and do not wear bright colours, but then they have never refused to wear the costume or jewellery I ask them to wear,” says Swati.
Swati does not charge anything to teach the Dadis rather she takes care of the costume, make up, transport and all other expenses during the shows.
Not only do the Dadis get to learn a new skill and make new friends, but they have also gained a lot of confidence in the process.
One of the Dadis, Asha Tolani, has recently participated in the Archerz Mrs India Contest and performed a dance there too.
54-year-old Asha Totlani’s husband had passed away very recently. It was a difficult time for her as her children lived abroad and were constantly worried about her well-being. But Asha showed the courage to come out of her grief and indulge into things that made her healthy and happy.
“Dance is a complete exercise of the mind and the body. Both your mind and body are engaged when you dance, and you forget all your worries. I suffer from knee-pain, but then dance keeps me motivated. Now, I regularly practice yoga and workout at least for an hour every morning so that I can remain fit to dance,” says Asha.
Asha’s next project is to organise a countrywide Mr Grandpa and Mrs Grandma Event. She believes that post-retirement is the best time to fulfil all your dreams and she is going to learn one new thing every year.
And what’s Swati’s next plan with the Dadis?
“I want the Dadis to get a bigger platform like the dance reality shows on TV. I am very sure that that will inspire more elderly people to indulge in such activities. I can’t go everywhere to teach them, so I request all the dance teachers to have at least one batch for this age group too. Not only dance, but it can be any other classes. Don’t just limit them to caring for grandchildren, singing bhajans or visiting temples. There might be many things that they might have missed in life. Let them explore all those things,” concludes Swati!
To know about the dashing Dadis, you can contact Swati on 9825805408.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)