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August 23, 2004

The sound of success

From: Indian Express, India - Aug 23, 2004

Kathak danseuse Shilpa Datar believes that her hearing impaired students are special because they have a unique sense of rhythm.

Manju Rughwani

Pune, August 22: The melody of music may remain unknown to them, the rhythm of the beats may escape them, yet little stops these hearing impaired dancers from a performance full of gusto. For this they have one person to thank - Shilpa Datar, a Pune-based Kathak danseuse, who has been imparting classical dancing skills to hearing impaired students at the Red Cross Society's School for the Deaf.

Trained by Maneesha Sathe, Datar conducts special classes here on Mondays and Thursdays. She says, " Initially, I wasa bit apprehensive as I did not understand sign language. But with the support of the staff, I soon learnt that too.'''

What was it that brought her to this challenge? Datar says, "I always wondered that if classical dance can be pursued by ordinary people, why exempt the hearing impaired from it? During the sessions with these special students, I discovered that they have been gifted with the unique sense of rhythm. They can understand each musical beat with count measures."

Describing her unique preparation technique, she reveals, "Prior to skill training, a lot of homework is required to prepare the count chart for each sequence. The students are taught basics of classical dance with the aid of lip-reading and sign language. Then for the first few dancing sessions, I clasp their hands, count and dance with them. This sense of rhythm continues till they get their steps and expressions right."

Datar's efforts bore fruit when her students put up an incredible stage performance at the International Theatre Festival held at Cuttack in December 2003. Beams she, "During the competition, many of the spectators were amazed at their perfecting dancing styles with impressive expressions."

But the one thing which saddens her is the lack of enthusiasm of parents of the hearing impaired . Says she, "Most of these students are from economically weak section and are not given any encouragement to pursue arts.''

Setting up her goals for the future, Datar says,'' My aim is that at least one student of mine should reach great heights in Kathak."

© 2004: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. All rights reserved throughout the world.