Meet the 32-year-old choreographer who is empowering underprivileged children with dance

Vinay Sharma’s Dance Out Of Poverty initiative has trained 2,500 children and adolescents in slums across Delhi and Mumbai. Eighty of them have found employment as dance instructors.

Twenty-year-old Kaushal Doop’s life was filled with chaos and turmoil. Suffering from extreme drug addiction, he would wake up to the unmistakable symptoms of temporary withdrawal every single day. To satisfy his cravings, he would resort to stealing and pick-pocketing. 

Then, in 2017, Sinhayana Foundation’s Dance Out Of Poverty (DOOP) initiative changed his life for the better. 

Kaushal Doop teaching dance to a few children.

Kaushal recalls his drug stupors submerging him in a world that was murky and dull. Wanting to learn dance from a very young age, he was held back from enrolling in full-fledged training by his family’s financial situation.

“My father being a welder at a factory, we did not have enough money to pay for training. Gradually, my desire to pick up the art form faded away, and I became addicted to drugs. I experienced a turnaround only when I joined the Dance Out Of Poverty movement in 2017. As part of the initiative, trained choreographers came to my locality and taught me freestyle moves, without me having to pay even a rupee," Kaushal says.

Dance, says Kaushal, has helped him bring out a lot of positive energy. It has given him mental clarity and emotional stability, because of which he has kicked his bad habits for good. 

The bright tunes of DOOP

Feet in perfect sync, arms raised in the air, and moves flowing smoothly, Kaushal today works as a part-time dance instructor at MusiCanics Dance Academy in Uttam Nagar, Delhi, earning Rs 5,000 a month. He is simultaneously pursuing a degree from the School of Open Learning, University of Delhi. 

Children being trained as part of the Dance Out of Poverty initiative.

The DOOP initiative was kicked off in 2016 by Vinay Sharma (32). The Founder of Sinhayana Foundation decided to quit his job as an assistant director-cum-choreographer to filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi with the intention of transforming the lives of underprivileged children through dance.

Speaking to SocialStory, Vinay says that though dance is not considered a part of the education system in India, it has immense potential to bring out the best in people and give wings to their dreams.

Vinay Sharma and Hrithik Roshan along with the Dance Out of Poverty troupe.

“Once it is learnt, it can be pursued as a hobby or even a profession. There are several children and adolescents out there who have the yearning to shake a leg, but do not have the means to go ahead. I laid the foundation for the Dance Out of Poverty initiative with the aim of teaching this art form for free," he says.

Taking the first few steps

Vinay started his career in film-making and choreography in 2009 and then went on to take up the role of an assistant director. After about eight years of working in the industry, he took a break. 

That was when the social entrepreneur conducted a dance workshop for over 200 financially-challenged children. He was surprised to see the enthusiasm and positive outcomes that emerged from it. Then, the idea of starting an exclusive initiative around dance popped into his head.

A dance session in progress at a slum.

“There were a slew of organisations working to provide children with food, health, and education, but hardly any that focused on training them in performing arts like dance. Hence, I decided to establish my NGO, Sinhayana Foundation, and launch an initiative to give free training in dance to young minds,” Vinay says

Despite facing general disapproval and criticism for quitting a high-paying job and venturing into the social sector, Vinay was not deterred. Keeping alive his hopes of empowering people through dance, he poured in all his savings to grow the initiative. 

Dancing their way forward

The motto of the DOOP programme is to nurture and channelise the energy of children through dance and, at the same time, train them to grab employment opportunities in the field. 

To achieve its objective, the programme has 12 choreographers who travel to slums across Delhi and Mumbai, bring together children of the area who are interested in learning dance, and teach them for free. 

Children performing on stage after being trained.

These choreographers train the kids in different freestyle moves through 90-minute sessions organised thrice a week. 

Vinay explains that the entire programme in each of the slums runs for about six months to one year. Some of the locations covered as part of the initiative to date are Munshi Ram Colony, Sagarpur, Sarita Vihar, Indrapuram Ghaziabad, and RK Puram in Delhi, and Juhu in Mumbai.

“Various elements like fundamentals of dance, facial expressions, body movements, theoretical concepts, fitness, and nutrition are focused upon. Besides, every year, we organise a show where all of them get a chance to perform on stage for a huge audience, including Bollywood celebrities,” he adds. 

Vinay Sharma, Founder, Sinhayana Foundation.

So far, Vinay and his team have trained more than 2,500 children and adolescents in dance, of whom 80 have bagged employment opportunities as dance instructors. 

Vinay is now planning to expand his initiative to at least three to four more cities by 2020 and train another 10,000 children.  

(Edited by Athirupa Geetha Manichandar)


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