“Therapy through Dance”
As a professional danseuse Dilshad Patel needs no introduction. She is among the first Indian dance professionals to combine dance with creative movement therapy and exercise in a unique wellness experience.
Her twenty year career has seen her grace the stage as a national level Bharat Natyam dancer in India, followed by specialized training in Afro Caribbean, Contemporary, Salsa and Jazz in New York.
Dilshad has trained in Dance and Movement therapy at the Harkness Dance Centre in New York, where she taught at schools, colleges, psychiatric departments in hospitals and residential treatment centers for emotional and behavioral disorders.
She also earned a scholarship in the Work-Study Program at the Garth Fagan Dance School in New York. Garth Fagan is the celebrated choreographer of the Broadway musical “Lion King”, which won him the Tony Award. She was also chosen to be part of an artist-in-residence program by the city school District of Rochester, New York.
Her years of experience and her in-depth knowledge of dance have led her to make an entrepreneurial interpretation of her artistry and expertise.
This unique fun filled class integrates structure through various styles of dance and encourages the mind and body connection through unstructured movement. Using elements such as effort, space, flow and time and various qualities of movement, students are encouraged to explore their bodies and emotions in relationship to their surroundings. Personalized training is available through group classes or private sessions.
Dilshad spoke to Yourstory and explained how one may benefit from her teachings saying “Creative dance and movement therapy helps those who are generally healthy as well as those with mental illnesses and with physical or mental disabilities to regain a sense of wholeness by experiencing the unity of the body, mind and spirit. Children, teens, adults as well as senior citizens and special populations can all benefit from this form of alternate medicine.”
“My class is not just a dance class. This unique class integrates structure through various styles of dance and encourages the mind and body connection through unstructured movement. Giving my clients an opportunity for self expression and to get fit is the primary goal of my classes and sessions. Focusing on mind and body centering students work at a neuromuscular level. The class does not stress on proficiency in dance but in fact on self expression and communication using the body as a tool. You do not have to be a trained dancer to be a part of this class.”
Dance therapy is a new age method whose practitioners swear by its physical, mental and emotional profits. Dilshad says “Dance therapy is the use of dance movements to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of a person. The dance therapist believes that the body and mind are connected, so the state of the body may affect mental and emotional health and vice versa. Dance therapists improve their clients’ wellbeing through this connection, observing movement to diagnose, remedy and prevent existing and potential health issues.”
“Body language and posture are a reflection of a person’s emotional state. Movement therapy corrects psychological and physical aberrations or inhibitions by building self- awareness through body control, working from the outside in. The dance therapist facilitates gesture and postural awareness by empathizing and mirroring the participant’s movements and thus unlocks blockages in the neuromuscular system.”
Those who might be misled into thinking that it is just a dance class are mistaken. Dilshad explained how the two differ saying “There is a vast difference between dance instruction (which uses dance as therapy) and dance therapy. Dance therapists encourage authentic movement to flow from the participants and do not rely on traditional dance instruction, which is actually the opposite of what dance therapists do.”
“In a dance therapy session, the movement comes from the participants through guidance of body awareness, whereas ‘Dance as Therapy’ implies that any dance class has therapeutic value that encourages the mind-body connection.”
“By allowing people to express themselves through movement, dance therapy develops muscle co-ordination and mobility while improving self-awareness and interpersonal interaction. Dance therapists are responsible for preventive health by observing and altering movements, retraining muscles and diagnosing movement challenges. They also assist in resolving various physical and psychological issues for those recovering from illness, or dealing with physical, emotional or mental challenges.”
Dilshad has staked out a way to growing further and believes that it is only possible by letting her work speak for itself. She has identified what else she needs to do and states it saying “By creating an awareness in the field of dance and creative movement therapy by defining and distinguishing my classes from a generic or a specialized dance class where you only learn choreographed movement or structured dance.”
“By promoting my classes, recruiting and training individuals in the later stages of my business. To acquire physical space or a studio where I can conduct my own classes and conduct workshops and implement teacher training programs. To showcase and document individual experiences
To educate individuals all over India and the world on the importance of movement in people’s lives”
It is not every day that an established professional like Dilshad undertakes the arduous journey that is entrepreneurship. She told us how it all came about for her saying “I realized my passion at a very early age. I was always interested in the performing arts field and I knew that I would choose a career that involved either dance or drama. After having experienced life as a professional dancer, I was able to understand myself better and that’s when I knew that a single dance class had a positive life changing impact on my life.”
“After being exposed to techniques and education in America, I wanted to start my own unique organization where people would understand the vast difference between the term dance/movement therapy and dance as therapy. Knowing that there was no dance class in India that offered people an opportunity for self expression and communication rather than focus on proficiency in formal dance techniques. I decided to pursue my goal of starting the first of its kind class in India.”
“While I could have been happy training under an organization as a professional dancer and movement therapist, I wanted to carry forward my dream of helping people with difficult life situations by using dance as a healing art.”
Despite her efforts at making people understand what she was offering, many have found it hard to differentiate it from normal dance. Dilshad says “Educating people about creative dance and movement therapy and making them understand how specialized it is has been a mammoth task. Most people do not understand the difference between dance as therapy and dance/movement therapy. Acquiring finances to start my classes was another issue that I faced. I had to struggle and conduct free classes for almost six months until people started realizing the benefits of such a program.”
“I started conducting workshops and free demonstration classes at various studios and gyms. People that benefited from my classes recommended me to other clients who then signed me on to conduct private workshops. Through word of mouth, I built up my clientele and from the money I received for my classes, I would pay for rent and travel and all the other necessary materials for my class. Advertising, posters, website design, content for the website, travel, space rent, phone calls to students all turned out to be part of my expenditure. I spent nearly one lakh of my earnings on running my business.”
Dilshad has fought hard to establish herself and deserves all the accolades that she has received. She told us about her favorites saying “There have been numerous press releases as well as channels that have propagated my work.”
- Nickelodeon, Let’s Just Play campaign: A pro socio campaign that was held globally making a conscious effort to help kids and their parents understand the importance of Play and to initiate a wave of good lifestyle habits
- MTV, India Corporate workshop
- Citi Group, India for Global community Day: Citi's annual Global Community Day brings employees together as a global volunteer team on a single day.
- Cancer Patients Aid Association a program for Cancer affected children and their families at Nalanda
- Mind Temple: A workshop for mentally ill senior citizens
- Manav Foundation: Regular dance therapy sessions for the emotionally and mentally disturbed
- Hamara Footpath: Teaching dance and movement therapy to underprivileged children on the foot paths of Mumbai.
- Workshop for teens which was featured on MTV wassup.
Dilshad has found out that the road to being an entrepreneurial success is tough and lonely, yet she has always found a way to carry on. “Yes at times I have felt alone, sapped of energy and vulnerable to giving up. However each time I step into a class and see a smile on every clients face, I remind myself that I didn’t choose to do this but I was chosen to carry out this work.”
“My students and people I deal with teach me more than I could ever teach them. The confidence, self esteem, weight loss and happiness they experience keeps me focused. The support I get from my family and well wishers makes me work harder.”
Dilshad has not only proved that she is an excellent danseuse but also that she knows her art well enough to teach it to others. She advises those looking to emulate her success saying “Stick to the plot and keep reminding yourself about your purpose. Follow your dreams and passion. It may take years or even a lifetime to discover your passion. When you recognize it hone it. Never say die even when things you thought would materialize don’t because when you truly believe in your strengths even when others don’t things seem to have a way of working out.”
Yourstory wishes Dilshad many years of achievement and success on her entrepreneurial journey of spreading good health. We thank her for taking the time to interact with us despite her busy schedule and hope her achievements grow with each passing year.