The acclaimed, award-winning Sonia Sabri Company, one of the leading contemporary South Asian dance and music companies has officially announced THE BUTTERFLY PROJECT, a community dance partnership with Birmingham based Sähëlï Hub, a Social Enterprise charity dedicated to improving women’s health and wellbeing.
It is widely known that dance is one of the best activities for keeping fit and plays a pivotal role in delivering positive health benefits including improved moods and cognitive skills, increased strength and agility.
Sähëlï Hub operates in three wards with the poorest health outcomes in the city with female populations who are the least likely to take up physical activity, or sport. THE BUTTERFLY PROJECT will provide women, who would not normally have access to dance, a chance to step away from their daily lives, interact with other women from their community, build confidence, make friends, and help improve their physical and mental health.
Sonia Sabri Company, an Associate Company at Birmingham Hippodrome, has an international reputation for presenting Kathak dance in a contemporary context, without diluting its integrity. The company perform professionally across the UK and run regular workshops in dance and music, currently presented online due to COVID-19.
Kathak is one of the major classical dances of India. Kathak, meaning ‘story telling’ originated from Northern India through a group of Nomadic Bards and is performed through mime and dance. A professional dancer will train between 10-15 years full time. Similar to someone training in Ballet.
Kathak is a classical dance form which requires years of dedicated training, time and lifestyle adjustments in order to become a Kathak Artist.
Award-winning Artistic Director Sonia Sabri, one of the world’s leading Kathak dancers, recently appointed Resident Creative at CURVE theatre Leicester said “We are really excited to officially announce the partnership ahead of International Dance Day on 29 April which aims to encourage participation and education in dance. This year alone we have worked on project-based workshops reaching out to over 600 participants, many of whom feel vulnerable and isolated.
At a time when women’s wellbeing and safety is much in the news, the announcement today platforms the company’s commitment to connect with more women, empower and support them through the arts and help them improve their lives, confidence and wellbeing.”
Shebina Gill, Sähëlï Hub Manager (Holistic Interventions Team) added: “We are delighted to be making this joint announcement today during our 21st anniversary year. We have developed a thriving community empowerment model which enables people from seldom heard and isolated communities in inner-city Birmingham to address long-term health disparities and social disadvantage. We provide innovative and culturally sensitive activities that focus on improving women’s holistic wellbeing.”
Sähëlï Hub have been successful at engaging local women through GP referral schemes and word of mouth. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they have delivered a ‘Befriending calls service’ and surveyed local women, adapting services to meet their needs.
Birmingham-based GP Dr. Prasad Gosavi added: “As a GP I have noticed a deterioration in people’s mental health over the last year. In this situation dance can keep one physically, as well as mentally occupied. Being part of a dance class, even though it might be online, does give a feeling of belonging and helps social interaction with others. Dance is an excellent physical activity and with the current restrictions on our movements it can be an excellent way to keep physically fit and enhance our mental well-being.”
Following consultation with female participants during lifting of restrictions, Sähëlï Hub created over 240 bubbles of outdoor physical activity groups in green spaces, offering COVID-19 secure activity that maintained safe social distancing. During the third lockdown the Sähëlï Hub offers weekly morning, afternoon and evening calls including the Sähëlï team zoom with women sharing the tools learnt from THE BUTTERFLY PROJECT. Feedback from women has been that they feel safe to re-engage socially and become active again.
Hospital Healthcare Assistant, age 69 said “I finish my shift at the hospital and connect via zoom with Sähëlï Hub nearly every session, I NEED THE COMPANY and I love the topics, it makes me feel young, participating with all ages and keeps me mobile.”
It is the aim of Sonia Sabri Company to deliver THE BUTTERFLY PROJECT on a yearly basis reaching communities far and wide. Currently, with many community buildings unable to reopen, and no face-to face workshops allowed, Sonia Sabri Company has spent time providing basic Kathak dance training for session leaders from Sähëlï Hub in order to continue to help them engage with participants during lock down. Sähëlï Hub trainees use these skills to develop sessions to lead movement workshops online individually with women from other groups and the local area.
For further information on the work of the Sähëlï Hub please go to www.saheli.co.uk/home-2/
Further information on Sonia Sabri Company and their online programme can be found here www.ssco.org.uk