Choreographed to create change
Husnain has been in a wheelchair since childhood. Speaking of how demotivated he felt at one point, he mentions he felt like he did not belong.
People with disabilities have a lot of talent and the world should be aware of this. Others see us only with pity; this view needs to be changed,” shares Patparganj-resident Husnain (29), who has been practising the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam for the past 18 years.
Husnain has been in a wheelchair since childhood. Speaking of how demotivated he felt at one point, he mentions he felt like he did not belong. “My house had a number of stairs; I did not know how I’d manage without someone’s help,” he says.
The one joy in Hussain’s life was performing arts. His love for dance only grew once he joined the Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust, an Anand Vihar-based voluntary organisation that rehabilitates persons with disability. After training here, Husnain performed at the city’s Talkatora Stadium in 2003 for the first time. There was no looking back since. “Many would agree that Indian classical dance forms, especially Bharatanatyam, are not for persons with disabilities. That did not discourage me. I started training. There were times I would fall down, even bleed. But I kept going on,” he shares.
Determined to make the world aware that persons with disability should not be sympathised with but rather should be provided with equal opportunities, Husnain founded We Are One (WAO)—a performing arts academy that works with persons with disability—in 2016. “This is the time for inclusion. We are all similar and we need to work on this similarity,” he adds.
Inclusivity for the win
With a core team of nine, WAO currently has around 90 students who are being trained in music, dance, theatre, and art. While the group’s forte is Bharatanatyam, they also teach wheelchair yoga and martial arts. “Most parents were sceptical about their children being able to perform. However, once they witnessed the training, they were not just amazed but glad,” Husnain says. Sushma from Madhu Vihar, mother of 12-year-old Shreya who is deaf, affirms, “Shreya started dancing from the time she could walk. However, many would ask how she would be able to dance without music.” Shreya has been a part of WAO for five years now. “She is taught the steps through sign language and by counting them out. I was amazed the first time she performed. It was a proud moment for her,” Sushma adds.
In no way different
Wheelchair dancing, Husnain elaborates, is about the performer using the drive wheels of their wheelchair instead of their feet. “Every student is trained to balance on two wheels. A performance should, in no way, be different just because we have disabilities.”
Talking about organising programmes in educational institutions to create awareness, he says, “We want to share with children that disability is not a curse or an illness. If we are able to teach them from the beginning, they will not look at persons with disability through a different lens.” Hussain concludes, “What I am today is because of the wheelchair. It is not a sign of disability for me and I hope others too understand this.”