Dance with Ash

Ash has called Thanet home since 2013, he’s so happy to be here he could break into dance at any given time and he often does, thankfully he’s rather gifted in the artform.

Last year was a great year for Ash: as well as leading a flash mob of colourful dancers at the Turner that was part of the internationally acclaimed Margate Festival, he started a dance class created with the wellbeing and connection of the community in mind.

CommunityAd had the absolute joy of a chin-wag with the professional dancer who has been dancing since he was four years old, Ash recalls growing up in a happy household with the eclectic sound of everything Doris Day to Tchaikovsky as well as a fair share of Bollywood classics. Ash comes from strong musical stock, his father played the Tabla and his mother was a fine singer, so naturally Ash brought the missing element in the form of dance to great acclaim, you may recognise him from TV shows Move Like Michael Jackson and So You Think You Can Dance?

Do you remember your first performance? What can you tell us about it?

My first dance performance was a rather impromptu one at a Spring Festival celebration in Calcutta. They had various acts, and one of them was a folk-dance troupe from Mizoram, a north eastern state in India. The dancers would hop in and out of the stage in time to the beat of bamboos which would be snapped together by the other dancers. One wrong move would result in a rather nasty injury. Of course, me being a hyperactive four-year-old, I did not know nor care about such dangers. When the music started, this tribal drum beat and chanting, well it got to me so much that I ran onto the stage and joined in. The audience roared and started clapping and I remember being escorted out by my rather appalled mum and aunt! I have not looked back since!

How long have you been running your dance for health & wellbeing courses? What do you enjoy most about them?

I started Dance With Ash last year in Spring. When I created it, I had a crystal clear vision that I wanted it to be more than just a place where you came to learn a few dance steps. I wanted to create a space where on top of picking up a dance skill, we could all connect and dance with one another. Dancing is one of the most primal things we can do. That’s what our forefathers did round the fire. India has a great tradition of numerous folkloric dances centered around festivals. People gather at these festivals, they dance, bond and connect together. And their communities are stronger and better for it. One of the nicest things about Thanet is its local community. When I lived in London, I just didn’t have the luxury of being able to run and maintain a sustained community of dancers. In Thanet, that is vastly different. That’s what I love most about the classes. The way the community comes together. And if the community can come together with mindful intention and care then well-being is always the result.

You’ve been involved with a lot of great stuff locally i.e dancing at the Margate Festival, the flashmob, they must be great fun to do?

Ah thank you, yes, it’s been a wonderful experience actually! The local Thanet community has been absolutely brilliant and have turned up and danced with me. When I proposed the Flashmob idea to the Margate Festival committee, I had a vision of what I wanted, but what we managed to pull off on the day, far exceeded my expectations thanks to the sheer enthusiasm of the participants, the wonderful goddesses who attend the Dance With Ash classes, or as they like to call themselves, the Goddashians!

Would you say there is a link between dancing and improvement in one’s mental health? Have you seen examples of this in your teaching?

I feel that there is definitely a link between dancing and improved mental and physical health. Dancing, along with being one of the most primal things we do, is also one of the most sophisticated things we can do. Dancing doesn’t just utilise your brain but it engages your entire central nervous system. That is why there is research now to find out why a dancer’s brain is wired so differently, and how it can benefit our health. I can see in myself and in the participants when we are engaging just our brains as opposed to our whole bodies to figure out a combination. I see some really breakthrough moments in the sessions, because the body never lies… The effect is so rewarding and I always feel so privileged to be in the room when it happens.

What makes Thanet such a lovely community to be a part of and what do you love most about it? Thanet is such a lovely community to be a part because of its people and their sense of humour. People understand and appreciate banter and you know where you stand with people which is refreshing to say the least. In that way it’s rather similar to Calcutta where I grew up, so I feel right at home! Add its innate scenic grandeur, it’s a marvelous part of the world to reside in. To find out more visit Facebook @dancedancewithash

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