“I Am Deaf & I Love to Dance!”- Inclusive Dance Festival Offers a Platform to the Disabled

Tandav, an inclusive dance festival that brings together people from diverse backgrounds – including persons with disabilities and children from difficult backgrounds, is set to take place in Bengaluru on December 11, 2016.

Tandav, an inclusive dance festival that brings together people from diverse backgrounds – including persons with disabilities and children from difficult backgrounds, is set to take place in Bengaluru on December 11, 2016.

“I think it’s time to break stereotypes – like someone with cerebral palsy cannot dance, someone who is hearing impaired cannot dance! It’s all blah! We can dance and we will keep on dancing,” Prathap Ram talks about dance with a sparkle in his eyes.

Prathap, who has cerebral palsy, is among the many who have found their passion at Tandav, the annual inclusive dance festival that takes place in Bengaluru.

Tandav 2.0 participants and volunteers

The idea behind Tandav is as profound as it is simple. Tandav was started by brothers Vishnu and Vishal Soman in 2014, with the aim of celebrating dance with people from all walks of life. Vishnu, who works with Enable India, wanted to challenge the idea that dance is only for certain people in society.

“My brother and I started Tandav when we understood that dance is still a taboo in various communities. All we had was support from people and we managed to organise India’s first community-driven dance festival in 2014. Tandav is the only dance festival in the country where people who cannot see, hear or speak learn and perform various dance forms,” says Vishnu.

“Whether one is hearing impaired, visually impaired, wheelchair-bound, or autistic, it doesn’t matter on this platform. Why should anything in the world stop us from dancing? Here, at Tandav, all are united by dance and music,” says Mobin Daniel, the coordinator of Tandav.

The third edition of Tandav, titled Rudra Tandav, will take place on December 11. The event will see participation by over 600 children and 150 volunteers. Organised by the NGO Smileys, founded by the Soman brothers, Tandav has managed to engage over 25 children’s homes from in and around Bengaluru. Connecting the volunteer community in Bengaluru, Tandav is bringing in many dance enthusiasts who will be helping out at the event.

Tandav is a one-day event.

“The first half of the day is spent teaching the participants different dance forms with the help of facilitators. Then, these dances are performed in the latter half. It’s a mutual effort. The children and the volunteers develop a rapport and perform together. It’s an enriching process for everyone,” says Mobin.

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Tandav has been receiving a positive response from its very first edition. A milestone in Tandav’s journey was when its second edition, titled Ananda Tandav, led to the formation of ‘Attam’- an inclusive dance troupe. The troupe has persons with disability who have a flair for dancing and a zest for presenting their talent on stage. There are seven dancers – with disabilities like cerebral palsy, paraplegia, hearing impairment, and blindness – in Attam. Five facilitators help them learn various dance forms and the troupe performs independently now. Attam recently had a performance at the Indian Institute of Management in Bengaluru.

This year, Tandav will introduce a new tool for the hearing impaired – a speaker/headset that will convert the rhythm of the song into vibrations, allowing them to ‘feel’ the music. It is something Shivashankar Ganga is looking forward to the most.

Tandav participants Srilatha KS (left), Prathap Ram (top right) and Shivashankar Ganga

“I have impaired hearing since birth. But that doesn’t make a difference when it comes to dance. I can dance well without sound as well. For this year, I’m practising with the Attam team and I’m also volunteering. I cannot wait for Tandav to begin, especially with the new headphones that will enable me to feel the rhythm,” says Shivashankar.

Wheelchair-bound Srilatha KS, who discovered her talent at Tandav, feels that the message Tandav is sending out is of immense importance.

“It is only through initiatives like Tandav that we can make an impact on society. I never thought I was so good at expressing emotions while dancing until I participated in Tandav last year,” she says.

There are many more stories like this. Tandav is a place where persons with disabilities have learnt to dance without barriers, without embarrassment and without hesitation. Here, they realise, there’s not a worry in the world that cannot vanish with an elegant swirl or a joyful hop!

You may also like: Abhishek Thaware Defied Destiny and Disability to Become India’s First Teeth Archer

To know more about Tandav, visit their official Facebook page here and to contribute to the festival’s fundraiser, click here.

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