First Dance: Blind people of South Asian Heritage take the floor

Saturday 07th May 2022 03:27 EDT

Blind and partially sighted people of South Asian heritage have taken to the dance floor to perform for a live audience for the very first time.

The special event in Newham last night was to highlight the work of Dance Dosti, the UK’s first programme targeting South Asian people with sight loss to be active through dance. The programme is created and led by inclusive dance company Step Change Studios and supported by Metro Blind Sport and Vision Foundation.

Spurred by the inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, Dance Dosti is a one-year initiative that is using dance to improve physical and mental health, tackle social isolation and improve community engagement. The programme has involved three key core elements:

  • Creating over 100 online dance workouts in four languages (English, Hindi, Gujarati, and Bengali)
  • Working with the dance and fitness sector to improve the inclusion of disabled people from ethnically diverse communities
  • Piloting face-to-face dance programmes 

Step Change Studios Founder, Rashmi Becker, who recently received an MBE for services to disabled, people said: “It is both exciting and satisfying to see people who have never danced before proudly stepping on stage to perform for a live audience. Dance Dosti has highlighted the stigma that exists towards disability within communities but also the joy and confidence people experience in being able to access dance in a safe, supportive and sociable space.”

The dance performances were accompanied by live sitar and tabla music performed by blind musician Baluji Shrivastav OBE, who is the Founder of the Baluji Music Foundation and Inner Vision Orchestra.

Sajida Shah, another blind participant who performed said: I think South Asian people tend to do less for just themselves and concentrate more on family. Dancing lifts my mood and gives me time to do something for myself instead of housework. I enjoy coming out, being part of a group and moving to the music.”

During the evening, participants also took part in an audience Q&A and Dance Dosti partners spoke of their support for the initiative.

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