At 23, Sayee Lohokare appeared for her first Bharatnatyam examination conducted by Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, last month. The fact that she is affected by Down’s Syndrome makes her attempt more special.
“As a kid, Sayee used to break into a dance whenever she heard or watched a catchy number. Her parents knew that Sayee had a sense of rhythm, but didn’t know how to channelise it, in the sense that dance would help Sayee overcome her disability to some extent,” says Ketaki Kale, founder-director of Naadnam Academy of Performing Arts.
Two years ago, Sayee was recommended to Kale, by another student with special needs. “I am a dance therapist and so I work with kids and youth with special needs. People with Down’s Syndrome have small bones — their bones don’t grow in proportion — and hence they are of small stature. They have weak muscle tone, weak vision and could be overweight, with varying levels of mental retardation. That was the case with Sayee too. When she first came to me, two years ago, I trained her in cardio exercises, to help increase her stamina etc,” explains Kale.
Her enthusiasm for beats and rhythm caught Kale’s eye, and she started training Lohokare in Bharatnatyam. “Training special kids in classical dance form requires lot of patience. Every day is different. One day the kids are co-operative and try to follow your instructions, the next day, they are very moody and distracted. So you really can’t expect instant results with these kids. With Sayee, it was a little different, because she is enthusiastic and co-operative. Even when I was away in the US for the past one year, we continued our lessons over Skype.
Seeing her determination, and her parents’ support, I was convinced that she should appear for her Bharatnatyam examination — which is conducted both orally and practically,” adds Kale.
Kale then explained Lohokare’s disability to the examiners at Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth and said that barring a few postures — which required the girl to balance her body weight on one leg and so on — Lohokare would attempt the examination. Now, the teacher and the student are awaiting results. Hopefully, it should be a good one. Because ‘Where there is a will, there’s a way’ and Lohokare is definitely treading ahead.