Kainaaz Mistry: Teaching Dance to the Physically Disabled

She worked for an organisation that firmly believes  – Have feet, will dance. But, she proved that even those without feet, can still dance! While we find peace in giving a few hours of our schedule to those less privileged, Kainaaz Mistry has made her career by teaching dance to those who are differently-able, underprivileged and physically disabled. Here’s the story of her unique and fulfilling career

kainaaz Mistry

Even today she works as a consultant at several NGOs, organising events for such children. Kainaaz shares her experience of teaching dance to such children while she was a part of the Victory Arts Foundation.

Interview conducted and published by iDiva Team

What is the Victory Arts Foundation (VAF)?

Kainaaz Mistry

The VAF is a non-profit organisation that was founded by Shiamak Davar since he wanted to reach out to everyone and spread the spirit of dancing, whether or not someone had the ability to do so.

It caters to a group of differently-abled (or specially-abled as Shiamak would call it) people, who may be visually or verbally impaired, mentally challenged or simply underprivileged. Instructors of the Shiamak Davar’s Institute for the Performing Arts (SDIPA) teach these children to dance.

iDiva Team

How does the VAF function?

Kainaaz Mistry

There are various schools and NGOs that cater to those who are differently-abled. At VAF, we go out to these NGOs and schools and teach them dancing depending upon their capability.

Not only does this promote the spirit of dance and help them emotionally, but it also works on their muscles and body to loosen up and improves their physical agility! We have seen several cases where students’ physical ability has improved tremendously after dancing.

Before we head out to teach them, we ourselves are taught to train these kids by Tripuri Kashyap, a dance therapist.


iDiva Team

When did you decide to work for VAF?

Kainaaz Mistry

I first became a dance instructor in the SDIPA and then in the year 2000, Shiamak started a programme called the Dancing Feet. Via this programme he catered to the underprivileged and those who were HIV affected. While working in this programme, I discovered my affection towards working with these kids.

A couple of years later when he introduced the VAF, he asked me to head the foundation and I did so. I would instruct and also be a part of the VAF for a while, but eventually as VAF grew I focused my attention towards VAF only.

iDiva Team

What were the techniques used to train such children?

Kainaaz Mistry

The idea is repetition. A lot of these students are not blessed with good memory and repetition of the same thing is the key for them to get it right. You have to make something monotonous for them. In fact when we repeat an action we get bored, but these student don’t. Eventually in due course of time, they can perform the same better than us.

The technique of making it monotonous for them is so strong, that today, there are many such children who are as fast in learning as the regular kids. These students are even a part of the regular intermediate batches in the SDIPA.

Another aspect is to keep the instructors constant. When you teach these children, you make your presence felt. They become use to you and your style. It takes a long while for these kids to adjust to a new instructor each time. So it is extremely essential to keep a constant instructor while training them.

And finally you have to be very patient. You have to be absolutely calm while training them. You cannot get irritable with a slow class. Also, these kids prefer newer songs. They enjoy it more and at the end of the day, that’s the idea!

iDiva Team

Through your course of 6 years in the VAF, what was the most difficult aspect of teaching these kids?

Kainaaz Mistry

While teaching the kids, there was absolutely no difficulty. The difficult aspect in fact is in trying to convince the families and relatives to let their child participate in dancing. It’s the families who need to have more belief in their child’s abilities.

iDiva Team

Have any of your students gone on to perform shows?

Kainaaz Mistry

Oh many! There are many of them. In fact some of the underprivileged kids we taught are instructors at the SDIPA. Krishna Patil, Varsha, Shabana are a few to name!

iDiva Team

What’s your most memorable moment while working with the VAF?

Kainaaz Mistry

I think it would be the first time they performed on stage. During Shiamak Davar’s show – I Believe, these kids performed on stage with Shiamak Davar. They went up on stage and all of them, including those on a wheel chair performed at the event with a contemporary piece at the show.

I remember seeing the first rehearsal of the show and that made me feel very proud of them. I was extremely happy at that moment! After that there was no looking back for them. These kids got invites to perform at different shows and got a lot of love and appreciation.

iDiva Team

Are there any other events or fields that the VAF has made these children experience?

Kainaaz Mistry

There are many. We run for VAF every year at the marathon and many of these kids accompany us. VAF was involved in the Joy of Giving week organised by Give India. I too have accompanied these kids to Casablanka where they were shown garment manufacture and got a chance to paint on canvas and do other activities. There are a lot of ways that we encourage them at VAF.

iDiva Team

Is there any message that you would want to give the parents of these children?

Kainaaz Mistry

Yes! I think it’s extremely essential to be open minded. You have to believe in your child because your child is absolutely great. In our life too we find someone who is better or worse than us. So there is no point of underestimating or lacking faith in your child.

Also, you need to include your child in the society and you need to make a conscious and repetitive effort to do so. You need let your child get out there and make him a part of the rest of the world. Only when you include your child in the society, will the society include them.

For the society I would say, do not be afraid or remain aloof from them. These kids are in absolutely no way less qualified. In fact they have the ability to do much better than us in many cases. In other countries, such children are easily accepted in the society. In fact many of them even have jobs in various places like a cashier or something else, in which they excel immensely. In India, though the situation is better with more schools opening and better acceptance in the society, but there is still a long way to go!

Power to women! All month long, iDiva will feature unconventional women who are stereotype-busters in their own right. From interviews with women with unusual careers to success stories of  enterprising homemakers, we raise our glasses to ordinary women who have done something extraordinary with their lives! What’s more, we bring you life lessons from women icons in different fields, career mantras you’ve never considered and more to go out there and be all you were meant to be and more…

  • Captain BS Kaoosji(Retd)

    Indeed Kainaz Mistry deserves our communitys full support in the selfless service she is imparting to the lovely people .

    The whole world needs to see her pupils dance and at the moment I cannot think of a better platform than DANCE INDIA DANCE .With one of the MASTERS Marzi Pestonji present in this Zee set up I dont think that we will face a problem.

    I request Parsi Khabar to please initiate the necessary action.

    Kainaz keep up the good work and may Ahura Mazda give you strength to make those people under your tutelage smile and have more confidence in themselves.
    Bakhtyar S Kaoosji