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Dancing Star

May 1, 2013 divider image

It was in June last year when slum upliftment committee held a cultural program for the children from slums. A small girl was dancing on almost every song being played oblivious of the harsh weather (44-45 degree Celsius) outside and little comfort inside the hall. While another girl was dancing inside to some English song. It was really surprising to see kids from slums dancing on the songs  which I could only recognize with help from Shazam app on my phone.

Witnessing such amazing talent gave us an idea of  providing these kids a better platform to showcase their talent to world beyond the slums. We started working on this idea about 4 months back from now and started reaching out to children living in slums.  The club had been working with only 7 slums so far and in any case they would have come for the cultural program like earlier years. Slum upliftment committee chairperson suggested that we should contact Municipal Schools as most of the kids studying there come from less privileged sections of society and will be our ideal target.

The response from first two schools was encouraging. But the hurdle came when school authorities declined to co-operate unless they get official orders from NMC Education Officer. Visiting government offices, dealing with sarkari babus was far bigger obstacle for me then writing software code and creating mobile apps.  Thanks to cool as cucumber Director Parag Paranjpe for accompanying me and doing most of the talking to NMC officers, that hurdle too was crossed. The number swelled to 700 from 11 NMC schools and 7 slums. Looking at the overwhelming response and to keep the numbers manageable, it was decided to close the registrations.

The objective however was not to have a regular cultural program and in any case program with 700 kids was impossible and would have defeated the purpose. It was clear that these kids should be able to harness their potential (in this case Dance).  ‘India’s Got Talent’ Season 4 was over just a couple of months back and winners were two kids from extremely poor financial background. Bivash Chowdhury of Kolkata trained them at his dance school. Rtn Manish Bhati on one of his business trips to Kolkata approached him. It took him 15 minutes to convince his secretary for a meeting. However the meeting with Bivash was over in less than 3 minutes as he instantly agreed to join hands with our club & to come for the auditions and promised to train 10-15 bright children.

The most challenging task was auditioning 700 kids and short-listing 50-60 from them. Here many Rotarians and Anns came forward and helped in selection. The task was enormous. Reaching to schools and slums as per their convenience, lack of proper sitting arrangements, creating make shift dance area, arranging music at all locations, controlling over excited kids and teachers…the list is long. The final list was curtailed to 81 students. Bivash confirmed 27th April for final auditions. On 25th rehearsal were arranged at the same venue (Wankar Hall, Opp. Dikshabhoomi) so that children get accustomed to the setting and to sort out any bottlenecks.

The final day was all festivity. Contrary to previous experience kids came just on time dressed in different attires as per selected songs. Rtn Neerja Shukul with her wonderful oratory compered the show. The entire show was flawless with no glitches through out the day. Judge Bivash with a keen eye and understanding of dance picked up finer nuances of each performance. The audience lauded each and every performance that was delivered with gusto. Few of the performances were simply astounding. Kids right from age group 5 to 16 danced to the tunes of Bollywood numbers both classical as well as popular, hip-hop, remixes and Marathi songs. The final selection was difficult given the kind of performance delivered. Bivash could not resist and selected 20 kids as against originally promised 10-15.

Nilufer Rana, Dr Shantale Bhole, Divya Dass and Mamta Jaiswal ably managed registration desk. Breakfast was served prior to the event. First lady Shefali Shah, Chairpersons Pinky Batra, Kusum Pandey, Ann Neeru Bhatia managed the lunch. Chairperson Ragini Sahu gave valuable inputs while Sonal Singhavi, Sapna Vastani, Hetal Sampat, Sushma Hedaoo and Shefali Shah helped in initial screening of children. Large number of Rotarians and Anns attended the program and lent their services. Director Manish Bhati, Director Parag Paranjpe, Rtn Dinesh Naidu helped in conducting program. My friends Vikas Patra and Ramesh Chhangani deserve special mention, who attended each and every audition. They gave valuable suggestions to the participants. Durgesh from my office helped in arranging songs both in initial rounds as well as for final auditions.

Ms. Sushama Mankar, Asst. Education Officer, NMC attended the event for a brief time and lauded the club’s efforts in supporting children from NMC Schools and she also promised her full help in future for any such endeavor by the club. Special thanks to more than 40 Rotarians and Anns for being present during the final audition and support this new project by a new Rotarian like me. Last but not the least a big thank to the President Atul Shah and Hon. Secretary Shabbar Shakir for showing lot of faith and confidence in this novel idea and providing rock solid support.

The task is only half done. These 20 kids need to be trained by Bivash. That itself is a separate project and with the team effort I’m sure it will be a success as well.

Rotarian Sachin Palewar & Parag Paranjpe

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