Special Needs – Bollywood Dance Classes: A Guest blog by Sheetal Parikh

In 2019 we ran a 10 week pilot program with Bollywood dancing for individuals with special needs. It was a beautiful success! If you don’t believe us, just ask our students and families! ❤️
Here is what some of the parent shared with us:

“Hi Swati, I want to tell you how impressed I am with the dance class. Thank you for being so patient with K. She can be tough but she seems happy to come every week. Her progress will always be slow but I’m happy with what I saw today! Thank you!”

“Thank you! Can’t wait for classes to start again!”

My name is Sheetal Parikh. I am an Occupational Therapist and part of the CBDP Creative Team, contributing as the Special Needs Program Consultant and a Bollywood dance instructor since 2012.

Together with fellow instructors, Hetal Parekh-Olmedo and Swati Chaturvedi, we came together as a team with a different lens, but the same camera, to capture the spirit and essence of Bollywood dance!

Each week we began with a “Meet & Greet” which included introducing ourselves, greeting each other, and answering or responding to a question of the day. Next, we did a structured warm-up which included deep breathing, yoga movements, and traditional warm-up exercises, followed with a few minutes of an unstructured free dance and movement component.

At this point we transitioned into the main component of the dance class, learning Bollywood dance steps and choreography, and finally wrapping up with a cool-down component. 

Our classes were adapted to meet the students’ needs, and structured to maximize their potential and skills as Bollywood dancers!

As an Occupational Therapist working with children, adolescents, and young adults, my camera lens focused on all of the benefits of Bollywood dance such as facilitating motor skills, sensory processing and modulation skills, cognitive skills, communication, and socialization.

Research studies have shown that music and movement are essential to development of many skills such as memory, kinesthetic learning, attention, cognition, and socialization.


The main goal is to have FUN, but here are some other benefits of Bollywood Dance:

Motor Skills
Bollywood dance consists of choreographed dance steps that are taught in a sequential fashion. It involves moving and coordinating the head, arms, legs, hips- the whole body. The song tells a story that is portrayed through the facial expressions and body movements and all of this helps build motor planning, visual- motor coordination, bilateral integration, and balance.

Sensory Processing
As in most things we do, there is a lot  of sensory information that we must process, integrate, and modulate to produce an appropriate response or action. In Bollywood dance the sounds of the music, the sights of the props, the proprioceptive input of the movements, the vestibular input of the head moving to music…Take it all in, process it in your brain, and produce beautiful dance moves.

Cognitive skills
Attention, planning, judgement, problem solving, decision making, higher level thinking- these are all cognitive skills that we work on as we learn and practice Bollywood Dance. “Am I imitating the movement correctly?” “Should I move my right arm or left arm?” “Do I need to move forward or sideways?” “Am I too close to another dancer and will I bump into them?” “Am I following the directions correctly?” Answering or addressing these types of questions helps these students to develop cognitive skills in dance class to help them be successful dance students.

Communication skills
We start each class with a welcome warm-up that develops the students’ communication and social skills. We sit in a circle and have a question of the day. We use a ball to pass around and take turns “saying” our name, saying hello to our classmates, and answering the question of the day. We encourage the students to communicate verbally, gesturally, using sign language, or using an electronic communication device. Sometimes parents need to assist to clarify the communication. We also teach that  in dance, and life, communication can be expressed through facial expressions, body movements, and  body language. 

Socialization skills
We facilitate socialization with the teachers and dance-mates in our meet and greet, warm-up, and through the dance choreography. Socialization includes communicating verbally or non-verbally, high fives, hugs, imitating movements, and dancing together through free dance and through choreographed dance. It is amazing to see how these students socialize and have so much fun together!

We are so proud of all of our students and remain grateful to the students’ families for their support! 

We look forward to our journey together in 2020 –  check out our Facebook page or email us at CBDP.Namaste@gmail.com for the 2020 class schedule.

Namaste 🙂

A shout out to our volunteer student assistants: Mishi Chaturvedi, Krishani Parikh, and Milani Parikh! 

Guest Blog. Written By: Sheetal Parikh

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