“A challenge only becomes an obstacle when you bow to it.”
― Ray A. Davis
The challenges have been numerous in this journey, starting from family pressures to finance to infrastructure.
Sandeep goes to convince the families about their child's interest and passion for the Performing Arts by personally meeting them and educating them about the importance of Arts in the development of the child. He also tries and broadens their vision about the Performing Arts as a career and its bright future in India. This is not always an easy task.
Once the families are on board, the next task is to get them to the studio. “Students from as far as Faridabad come to my studio in Gurgaon to learn. Travelling expenses then become a big hindrance. Most children are from households whose monthly income is less than Rs.12,000/-. Thus, the inability to afford to travel has resulted in many dropouts in the past.”, Sandeep says.
Though the fees is subsidised, On an average only 60% of the students are able to pay the subsidised fee of Rs.500/- a month. Seasonal fluctuations in their parents’ jobs (drivers, gardeners, house maids etc.) does have an impact on their ability to pay for their training. During such situations, it is ensured that the classes continue to run. Sandeep’s focus is on their education and not on their inability to pay for the classes. The organisation is running through the support of his parents right now and does not even break even sometimes.
Another challenge that Sandeep has to deal with is with regards to infrastructure. “Over the span of two years I've been able to put in the basic amenities of a dance floor, mirrors, ballet barres and a music system in my studio. It has been a huge burden on my pocket, but this investment is a necessity. Regular maintenance and repair is an additional expenditure that I need to take care of.”
When it comes to trained and experienced faculty, Sandeep has been solely handling classes for last two years here. Last year, however, he shifted to Mumbai. Thus, his search for like-minded dance teachers and regular dance instructors has been a key focus. “I've been fortunate enough to find instructors for short spans like 4 to 6 months, and in addition I have also got a lot of people who are interested in coming and taking workshops. My search for permanent faculty is a tough one, as the remuneration they receive is much less than what they would get outside.”
It has not been an easy journey, but with passion and determination, the ‘Backyard Groovers’ have kept the groove in their hearts alive.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
Speaking of future goals, Sandeep says, “My biggest motivation is to help the students move from the ‘backyard’ to the ‘frontyard’. I hope to be able to produce from my studio, ‘artists’ who are able to make performing arts a career and bring about changes in the mindsets of their families. I believe it is children who can make an actual difference and bring about big changes in future.
I would also love to be able to expand the number of studios in the city of Delhi/NCR to begin with and then throughout India. I want to provide opportunities to these children to perform in art festivals, events, shows or even reality shows across the country. I, myself, would love to be able to take my ‘Backyard Groovers’ team and showcase their talent on different platforms, thus generating more work and income for them and the institution.
I have seen a number of government schools provide education to the lesser privileged in our country, but the quality is hardly at par with the normal standard provided by private schools. ‘The Backyard Groovers’, however, intends to offer the best quality of dance education and provide these children with the training that they would otherwise not be able to afford.
Other than classes in different dance styles, I plan to add acting, music, puppetry, yoga and spiritual healing as a part of their training system. This, I believe, will ensure that they receive a holistic education in the field of performing arts and give them more confidence to succeed in their future goals and aspirations.”
We often crib about the state of our country and its education system. Very few of us actually do something about it. We have to be the change.
The means ‘Backyard Groovers’ has chosen to bring about a change is through Performing Arts. At its core, they strongly believe that these children, are entitled to receive proper guidance, and be exposed to new opportunities for India to holistically develop.
Go check out the work of the ‘Backyard Groovers’ on their Facebook page
You can be part of this change too, dear readers. You could choose to sponsor a child’s dance education by contributing towards their fees, dance attire, dance shoes or even travel expenses. (The details of the contribution process are sent personally to people who are interested). You could also be a part of their fund raisers (details of which will be posted on their page) and thereby contribute to the development of a fool proof system for the institution. Artists could also get in touch with Sandeep if they would like to conduct a session or a workshop with our kids and contribute to their education even further.
Remember, Every gesture counts.
Thank you, Sandeep, for your wonderful work. All the best for all your future endeavours.