Backyard Groovers - Dancing towards a brighter Future | The Dance Bible
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Backyard Groovers - Dancing Towards A Brighter Future

'There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.'

― Edwin Denby
 
‘Backyard’ signifies something which is not in limelight or in the forefront. ‘Groovers’ signifies a passion to dance. A moment when as soon as the music is played the body begins to react and groove. This style of dancing is imbibed in each and every movement of the Backyard Groovers.

Currently 30 students from all over Delhi and Gurgaon are being trained in contemporary professional dance and being provided a platform to express themselves and showcase their talent on stage. The aim of ‘Backyard Groovers’ is to enable them to take dance as a full-time profession through which they can perform, assist, teach, choreograph and most importantly earn a living for themselves in the future. This will in turn help them alleviate from there domestic problems like lack of money, abusive parents or pressure to earn money (child labour), etc. and focus their energy towards learning something creative. Their vision is to give these children hope and introduce them to feelings, liberation, expression and satisfaction through dance.
‘Backyard Groovers’ work to help them build their confidence and self-esteem by mentoring everyone individually. This also includes helping them communicate better in Hindi and English, and equip them to stand on their feet and get the world to dance to their beats!

The Dance Bible spoke to the founder of ‘Backyard Groovers’, Sandeep Chugh to know more about this humble initiative.
 

“Only those who sow seeds of change can hope to grow and reap a harvest.”

― Andrea Goeglein
 
 ‘The Backyard Groovers’ was formed to bring about a socio-economic change in our society through Art. Sandeep wanted to provide equal opportunities for the less privileged to learn at a level that is at par with other dance institutions in the city, so that in future, quotas and reservations are not required and selection happens on the basis of pure merit. He firmly believes that these children are entitled to an education, whether it's academic or artistic, that is as good as what is provided in private schools if not better.

Speaking of what sowed the seeds of this initiative, he says, “When the 12 year old child of my house help came to me, and expressed his passion for yet inability to learn dance anywhere in the city, the seed was laid . At that point of time, I was an actor at in the musical show ‘Jhumroo’ which was staged at Kingdom of Dreams in Gurgaon and also a company member at the ‘Danceworx Academy of Performing Arts’ in Delhi.
I was lucky enough to have a studio space of my own in my family house, thanks to my parents. So, under the guidance of my mentors, I started ‘The Backyard Groovers’ for the less privileged who have the passion but not the complete means to learn different dance styles."

"My very first class had only one student, and my studio had no mirrors or even a proper dance floor. For the next class, however, he had brought with him four more students who were eager to learn. This number soon reached around 50 students just by word of mouth. I then began to provide 6 hours of dance classes a week, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday."

"Having studied Economics from Delhi University and having trained in styles like Jazz, Ballet, Hip Hop and Contemporary, I decided to do my own bit for the society by providing artistic equality for the less privileged. And I do hope that it will lead to or contribute to some economic equality in future.”
 

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.”

― Robert F. Kennedy
 
Talking about the structure of ‘Backyard Groovers’, Sandeep mentioned that it does not fall under the categories of a charity or any type of social work. It is a subsidised education system in Performing Arts, wherein either the family or anyone else willing to support a child pays a monthly fee towards their training. The current fee is Rs. 500/- a month for at least 16 to 20 hours of classes.

This ensures that the families, students and their sponsors value the training that is being provided and do not take the entire process for granted. Even the teachers are paid in proportion to the incoming revenue and the classes are not taught for free.

However, this does not mean that a student who is unable to afford the fees is denied admission.
That is why, Sandeep adds it is important to get the community involved, “This when my search for a sponsor starts. My aim is to make sure that the subsidised fee does not result in poor quality training and the standards are at par with the best institutes in India and Abroad.”
 

“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.