Ever wondered what dance and better emotional health have to do with each other? The LiveJam team caught up with Shubhra Chadha, dancer, choreographer and fitness enthusiast from New Delhi in a conversation to discover how she choose her passion for dance as a living and how it keeps her on the up! Read on to know more!
Q. Thanks for talking to us, Shubhra. To start off, we'd love to know a bit about you.
I am from Punjab. I was 2 years old when I moved to Mumbai. I was raised very lovingly and had a happy family and I loved my time in Mumbai. In 1998, we moved to Delhi and after that things were not same for me.
Q. What changed when you moved to Delhi?
This change was not a welcome one for me. I was angry with my parents for 3-4 months. School days were difficult in Delhi whereas I enjoyed my schooling and the teachers more in Mumbai. People in Delhi would speak more in Hindi and Punjabi at school and it was a big cultural shock as I was used to speaking in English. Even for befriending boys, I was seen in a different light as the thinking here was different. Teachers here didn’t appreciate too many inputs as opposed to those in my school in Mumbai where I was taught to be vocal about my thoughts. Once I corrected my English teacher, for having spelt two words inaccurately, and I had to bear the brunt of her anger. I had to be cautious and careful what, how to speak and whom to speak. I did not like it.
Q. That must have been tough. Then from angry teen, how did you move into being a fitness instructor and professional dancer?
In late 1998, I developed asthma because Delhi had a different climate. On 23 April night, when I was in Class 10, I slipped into a coma due to an artery swelling up in the heart and the blood supply to my brain stopped. My parents were desperate and my mom started to pray for God to take me away to relieve me of my suffering. Doctors had said that even if I were to live, I would have to live with blindness as my eyes had become stone-grey. But something happened that I know was a miracle...I woke up from coma, with my sight intact!
When it came to choosing a course after Class 12, I had many options, but somehow a course on holistic fitness & and self-healing really excited me as I had personally battled with ill health. I was also fond of dancing and learnt Kathak. But my dad was not very affirmative of this choice and he would not attend any dance functions of mine, perhaps to discourage me in this field. I felt that this course was closest to dancing and also had the attraction of healing oneself. Surprisingly, my dad was happy when I took this course as he felt it was prestigious enough for him to accept and also something that was close enough to dancing/ fitness.
Q. Everyone's story is powerful because it is a story about moving from death to life. What was yours?
My story goes way back, when I was in Class 12 my brother was hospitalized. He was in the ICU, and I was worried. There was a chapel in that hospital and to be honest I did not know how to pray and ask God for help. But in my desperation I reached out to God and prayed and witnessed another miracle as my brother’s condition suddenly improved and he regained health. This filled me with hope that God was going to help us if we reached out to him with all our heart and sincerity.
Q. Wow! Then how was college life since you chose the course you loved most?
College life was amazing! I got into a relationship and was also introduced to Banjara Dance group where I learnt Belly Dancing. At home I would close my door and practice dance steps to Bollywood songs. All was going well-- I loved what I was doing and my relationship with my boyfriend was all I needed. In 2012, we broke up, leaving me devastated. Life became tough but I focused on my course and dancing. It was hard but eventually I shared my inner struggles to a close friend of my boyfriend. She heard me out and offered support.
On 28 June 2014 she invited me to attend a church service. This is a place where I felt relief and it felt as if God was freeing me from the baggage that I was carrying. I felt that God has touched me for the first time. Though I cried, I felt good about myself. I was grateful for that person for listening to me and offering me a solution, a place where I would eventually heal. All these events reminded me about the Hope that I had experienced. I was remembered about how early prayers had been answered. This helped me forgive my ex-boyfriend and move ahead in life. Eventually I became more compassionate, loving and forgiving. Overall college was a big blessing!
Q. What kind of dance do you teach? You run a dance studio. How has dance helped your students cope with their emotional and mental health?
I teach Bollywood, bhangra, jazz and belly dancing. It helps women to internalize and get in touch with their feminine side. This has helped a lot of tom-boyish women who didn't feel like a woman to express themselves creatively and let go of all their stress. Students feel more confident and it gives them exposure to new friendships where you are pushed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Q. We all know dance helps us in maintaining great physical health. How does dance help to maintain healthy emotional and mental health?
Through different ways. For example, it helps you to connect with new people which further helps to share one another's problems and in that way reduce stress. It is also scientifically proven that dance and exercise helps in releasing tension by releasing dopamine in our brain the right way. And of course, it helps you express yourself in a creative way!
Q. And before we wrap up, any life hacks to our readers?
No matter what you are going through and no matter what talents God has given you, trust in God and don’t give up on your dreams. Not a single talent of yours is ever going to go waste when you give your dreams and plans to God. He may take you through a road of pain, but it will never be without purpose. You'll always emerge a winner in the end, wrapped in hope, prepared to help a broken world. He has a plan for your life and it’s a good one!