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ARTISTIC BELLY, MIND IT!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Belly Dancing is one of the most adored dance forms, and inspires almost everyone who has seen a belly dance performance. This dance form can be very taxing as it requires intense training and dedication. However, Dhara Thaver manages to perform belly dance performances across the globe, and also manages to be a trained psychologist! She has completed pursuing her degree of M.A in Psychology, and manages to be a belly dancer and psychologist at the same time. Priyanka Bhatt has a chat with the multi-talented 24-year-old, revealing many facts about handling two professions that clearly are poles apart...

Tell us about your initial brush with belly dancing.
I am a belly dance artist, a clinical psychologist and a yoga teacher. I started my belly dance journey around eight years back. I remember stumbling across a belly dance video on the internet and I was mesmerised by how beautiful it was. I started practising with whatever resources I could find on the internet and one-and-a-half year later, I took my formal training for four years with my teacher. In the meantime, I finished my education and earned my Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.

Why did you decide to pursue Psychology?
I was always fascinated about why we think and behave in the way we do right now. I was interested in studying the behaviour of people suffering from mental disorders and criminals. I decided to pursue Clinical Psychology when I was in Std IX and did exactly that.

Were there apprehensions in your family regarding belly dancing? How did you go ahead facing them?
Initially, there were a lot of apprehensions from the family. The journey to getting here was a difficult one. Belly dance was seen as something very sexy and seductive and wasn’t taken as a form of art. However, my mom has been extremely supportive of my choices. As time went by, my family saw me progressing and gradually accepted it. At present, they are very supportive and encourage me to learn more, train more and teach too.

Psychology and Belly Dancing are both very taxing to pursue as careers. How do you manage both? Which do you find more taxing ?
Ever since I started belly dancing, it was a difficult task to manage my academics with my dance training. Especially during my Masters, I was interning in the Psychiatric department of a Municipal Hospital and it was mentally taxing. Belly dance helped me alleviate all that stress, letting me be in the present space. It helped me relax and release all the negativity picked up throughout the day. After dancing for a few hours, I used to get back to studying and making reports for the patients I had seen in the day. At the end, what helped me juggle both the things were proper scheduling, understanding priorities and dividing my time.

What are the key points to master Belly Dancing?
Practice! Practice! Practice! The only way to master belly dancing, or rather any other art is the consistency in your practice. When it comes to belly dancing, women initially find it difficult to move their bodies in a certain way. It is because the body and muscles are not habituated to those movements. Therefore, practice creates muscle memory which the body will gradually get used to, making the moves more clean and easy. Another important point is to never stop learning. One must always be a student throughout their lives to extract the maximum knowledge and learning. The last point is to never lose hope and to never give up!

Have you come across any similarities in the two careers you pursue, despite them being poles apart?
Yes. One common similarity between both the careers I pursue is the stigma attached to them. People think that if a person visits a psychologist, he suffers from some sort of a mental problem or that he is crazy which is not the case! Psychologists equip and empower people to live their lives more efficiently and thoughtfully by providing necessary tools and techniques. With regard to belly dance, there is a stigma attached that it is a dance form which is performed to lure and attract men. History says that belly dance in the olden times was a ritual that women in the Middle-Eastern culture practised to prepare their wombs to give birth.

How much does a person's belief and psyche help them in physical activities like dancing or sports? Do you think the much-propagated ideal of "mind over matter" really works?
I completely believe in the “mind over matter” ideal. Most of the times, the reason we are this way is shaped by our mind, which shapes our behaviour. In my journey, I have come across 40-something women who think that they are too old to belly dance and I have also come across women aged 70 who was enthusiastic and passionate about learning this beautiful dance form. If you believe that you can do something, nothing in this world can stop you from achieving it. But if you let your thoughts and beliefs be an obstacle, that is where the growth stops.

Share an incident with us about your experience in Psychology which made you think it was a fulfilling career for you?
I have always been very helpful and compassionate towards people. I came across many experiences and people who were in dire need of help but couldn’t get any. I wished to help people who felt helpless in their lives by providing them free services. Also, since India has a very low mental health awareness, it paved a way for me to help create that awareness and remove the stigma attached to it. And I keep trying to spread the message among as many people as I can.

Which are the countries that you have performed at so far?
I have performed in India, China, and taught and performed in Turkey, last year.

What are your future plans?
I am travelling to United States next year to pursue a more advanced training in Belly Dance from one of the most sought-after teachers in the world. I will also be travelling across India offering workshops and trainings in various cities and a lot more is coming up.

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