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Transcending barriers for creativity

Wed, 05/29/2013 - 10:55 -- deepti.gahrotra

For the visually impaired, disabled and underprivileged youth, life is often a confrontation, with challenges coming in multitudes unlike an abled man or woman. It is often left to the individual alone to face these barriers and rise above his or her disability. There are many stories of such people who challenged life and overcame their incapability, either on their own or with a little support.

For a group of 14 people, being able to recognise the creative side in them, has taken them across the world; recognition coming in all forms.

Sunadha is a cultural group which was established in 1999 comprising visually impaired performers talented in dance, singing and mimicry. The group is an effort by Samarthanam Trust for the disabled. The group has performed classical and folk dances across India, US, UK, Malaysia and Thailand. Their popularity has increased by the year, so much so that they now embark on an annual two-month tour to the US and UK to showcase their talent.

The troupe has also won several awards including the first place at the All India Dance competition held in November 2010 in New Delhi. The troupe has nine dancers, four singers and a mimicry artist. The team is usually invited by corporates to perform as part of their corporate social responsibility initiative.“In 1999, Sunadha started its first cultural programme project outside India and our first programme was in the US for Veerashaiva Convention. Senior actor Shivaram accompanied us and made it a grand success,” said Vasanti Savanur, a 58-year-old volunteer and a trustee who has been travelling along with the troupe for the last 14 years.

“There is no fixed remuneration for the group. However, a minimum amount of `25,000 is charged for a performance of about an hour. The travelling and accommodation expenses are borne by the inviting party,” said Vasanti.

Recently, the troupe visited Malaysia where they performed for a month at every Sai Baba temple. “The main event was in Kuala Lumpur where they gave a two-hour performance in groups,” said Vasanti. For these students, performing at various shows has given plenty of exposure and for some, it has become their livelihood. “I have learnt a lot while I travel with them. This year, they have been invited by the Tamil Association in Dubai. We will be leaving in the month of September. I have almost attended 500 programmes with many groups and wherever we have gone till date, we never felt like outsiders. There are many challenges though. Sometimes their health dips but they don’t mess the programme. Their performances have left many people dumbfounded,” said Vasanti.

The group has also been trained to address another challenge - etiquette. “Since they participate in programmes that happen in India and abroad, they trained on how they should behave,” she said.

The troupe has Suma who is a visually impaired artist and has learnt the skills of Bharatanatyam, classical, folk, filmy, etc. She hails from Hiriyur, Chitradurga district. Suma has completed her degree in commerce from a reputed college in Bangalore and is a good dancer who has performed in Australia, Italy and the US as well as at prestigious events like the Hampi and Anegundi festivals.

“Initially we had a volunteer, Anumpama Jaisimha, who started teaching us Bharatnatyam. Then, we had Dr Raksha and, at present, it is Jai Lakshmi, who is handling the team. We have classes for three days in a week and we are taught only in the evening after our school and college hours,” said Suma who further added, “Public appreciation is our motivating factor. There were times when people have cried after our performance. We catch the enthusiasm when the audience appreciates. I never feel that I am blind when I participate in these shows.” For another special girl, Jayalakshmi, dancing was something that developed at a tender age. “I never had the opportunity back then, being disabled. But today I am glad to be part of the troupe,” she said. Lingaraju is the only male artiste in the dance troupe.

“He is visually impaired and hails from Tiptur. He started learning classical dance when he was only seven. Now, 22 years old, Lingaraju is an accomplished dancer. For more than seven years, he has been pursuing his passion for dance. In December 2010, he picked up the first prize for his performance at a national competition for the visually impaired,” said Vasanti.

The troupe is supported by a group of 12 singers and musicians, who are also disabled.

Source: The New Indian Express

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