I was always into extracurricular activities since school days and pretty good at everything I did. Like there was no other choice but to be good was the ideology that the perfectionist in me had developed since I was a kid. But something I really loved the most was dancing. In my heart somewhere I knew I wanted to dance and perform for the entire life. That feeling of being on stage and performing gave me a different high altogether. And then the deciding year came, the 10th standard board exams, after which I had to choose what I wanted to do in life. That was a true turning point for me. My result was really good, scored 100/100 in maths and 90 in science. And that made the choice of me choosing my career even more difficult.
I had two options in mind, engineering and dancing. Both very time consuming. And knowing me, I knew if I picked any one, I wouldn’t be able to give time or justice to the other one, so had to be a choice between the two. And that’s when I chose dance over everything else!
I landed in Mumbai in year 2013, the city of dreams to complete my graduation. Although like most people who come to this city; I thought my career as a dancer performer and choreographer would just jump start in Mumbai, which certainly was my assumption. Coming from a small city in Gujarat to a metro like Mumbai gave me a big time reality check about how there were thousands of people coming to Mumbai with the same dream that I did, each of them extremely talented and full of potential and how unprepared I was to deal with all of that.
I was 17 and completely on my own. My parents had my back but they were equally new and unaware of what I was doing in this career I picked. I was clueless and didn’t know where to start.
I enrolled myself in a college for B.com and started finding a dance class for professional dance training. After checking out almost all the big dance studios and a debauched experience of even being conned by few for money, it was a roller coaster experience and finally I reached my Alma Mater SDIIPL – Shiamak Davar International India Private Limited. I started as a student of Shiamak’s half year intensive programme then got selected as a student in Shiamak’s One Year Programme; where we danced 12-14 hours a day for 6 days a week for an entire year getting trained in various dance styles like ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, hip-hop, salsa, bachata, yoga, Shiamak style (Shiamak’s own style where he amalgamates various dance styles like kathak, contemporary, jazz and various other styles) and eventually danced professionally with his troupe for award shows and events like Radio Mirchi awards, Indian Super League Opening Ceremony, Zee Cine Awards etc. with a lot of well-known Bollywood celebrities. And with that, enrolled in a distance learning University and switched my studying field to Arts with Psychology and literature as the main subjects.
After almost 3 years of being with Shiamak, I realized how competitive the showbiz world is and how unhappy I was as my motto from just dancing which I loved changed to losing weight so as to keep in shape, dancing for my insecurities, dancing for others and dancing to constantly prove that I’m good enough to be in the business, and that realization was enough for me to take a step back and look at what I actually wanted to do. And then Psychology came to my rescue. In my years of college, I realized a deeper connect with Psychology.
In Shiamak’s, we were introduced to something called Creative Movement Therapy, where body movements where used therapeutically and that left a great impact on me. Amalgamating two things I’m passionate about – dance and psychology was something I immediately decided on doing. Being on the participant’s side and witnessing the magic of Movement therapy for myself, made me wonder the feeling of being on the facilitator’s side and being able to touch multiple lives with this beautiful science.
DMT or Dance Movement Therapy is a technique that helps the body communicate and release its innermost thoughts and emotions. By linking the breath to various somatic awareness exercises and free ranges of movement, it becomes a useful tool for exploring difficult thoughts and sensations.
So I started with my research on what all platforms offered studies in this yet to develop field in India. To my disappointment, only countries abroad had the platform to provide master’s level of degree in the field where as India only had two institutions conducting short-term course and a diploma level course in Dance/Movement Therapy. Meanwhile I decided on joining MA in Clinical Psychology and after a year, got myself selected for Diploma in Dance Movement Therapy from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in collaboration with Kolkata Sanved and joined the band wagon of being one of the very few certified dance movement therapy practitioner in India.
Currently I’m pursuing my Master’s in Clinical Psychology which I continued after taking a break for completing diploma in DMT, I’m a choreographer and founder of my own platform called Danspiration Dance where we conduct a lot of dance classes and workshops for various styles and DMT sessions, I’m a practicing Dance movement therapy practitioner and a certified and practicing Yoga teacher. With all that I’ve on my plate – Dance, dance movement therapy, yoga, Clinical psychology, passion and training for physical fitness, my end goal is to provide a platform to people with a holistic approach to wellness – where equal importance is given to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. We’re working on a module which amalgamates Movement, yoga and meditation which is something new that we intend on offering to people.
A survey by Cigna TTK Health Insurance, a health insurance firm, in 2018 revealed that 89% of Indians suffer from stress. The survey also revealed that 75% of the respondents did not feel comfortable talking to a medical professional about it. “Dance Movement Therapy is seen as an alternate space to general talk therapy. But it is a holistic practice in itself. People find dance and movement more comfortable and non-threatening medium of expression.”
“I have seen clients so frozen by fear, numbed by trauma, and crippled by anxiety because words alone aren’t enough to express the underlying pain.”
“People living with trauma often don’t have the words to express their feelings, or find that their voices have previously been undermined or taken away. The body speaks its own language and releases the suppressed voice and emotions hidden deep within their bodies and minds, and dance movement therapy has the ability to free an individual from turmoil and give a quality of life to someone who doesn’t feel deserving.”
Dance Movement Therapy has become a part of professional counselling programmes and there is this feeling of giving back to the society, being able to help to people and to destigmatize mental health and it’s problems with the use of something like Dance movement therapy, which I’ve a feeling will reach to more people eventually than the normal talk therapy because of our love for dance and movement in general as humans. Movement is the most primary thing a baby does, even before talking or walking. We have movement in us ever since we are in our mother’s womb. DMT is not just limited to people suffering from a mental trauma or problem, it is for everybody and anybody who wants to destress, vent and connect with themselves.
I hope it reaches the maximum number of people someday and people start giving importance to their mental and emotional health just as they are concerned about the physical health.
Story shared by Aastha Matalia
Edited by Raavya Sarda