We arrived in Dhasa towards the latter part of Navaratri, a nine-night festival where a Warrior Goddess is celebrated through the fervent dancing of a Folk Dance form named Garba.

This meant we were not only dancing Garba in the classroom in addition to Classical Dance but also dancing with our girls through the night, all over the village.

Situated in the heartland of Gujarat, Dhasa was the breeding ground of Garba and Raas. Hence, Navaratri is an electric time to be here! And we couldn't sit still, no matter what the time on the clock!

We have to give it to our girls for showing up like they did. And we have so much to learn from their energies, enthusiasm, endurance as they remained on their feet and moving, night and day, no matter how much sleep they'd had and how intricate their practice got - an inevitability as they move steadily along. Never mind that groggy morning faces are an enigmatic mix of cute and monstrous. And it takes some goading to get them to smile through the pain of practice. Especially, when it's getting hard.

It was a true joy to behold the true joy on their faces as they danced the Folk Art form that was cradled in their soil, in class and outside. They have a JUNOON that's hard to come by.

In class, they came through several preparatory exercises and sequences to stretch, strengthen, lengthen and increase muscle tone; Athletic training and of course, revision and more work in the Classical Dance forms of Bharata Natyam and Ballet.

Folk Dance being a focus area of Junoon, from the word go, they took heartily to choreographed sequences that incorporated Bharata Natyam movement transitioning seamlessly in and out of Garba steps, one giving enough space to the other, without diluting the authenticity of either.

What was astonishing was their swift pick up of choreography! They were so excited to be dancing to Gujarati Folk music and it was quite amazing to set Classical as well as Folk movement to it, all within the same song! A serendipitous effect of changing the music around or introducing a new genre of music has been that they have even begun to count beats and better figure out rhythmic patterns and cycles. Sometimes, a diversity in music can spring surprises! It's certainly going to do wonders for their responses to and understanding of Classical Music that fits and syncs with Classical Dance.

The girls worked tremendously hard. And they did it with a smile through most times. Their practice is only going to get more detailed, more complex and they had a sense of that this time round. They're seeing how crucial conditioning and consistency are to their practice and performance of Classical Dance. And they've also seen how beautifully balanced their training can become when paired with Folk Dance forms.

Garba takes grace, control, strength, passion, endurance and abandon. That's not very different from Classical Dance. And our girls have the chops for it all. We've seen more than just glimpses of it, well over a year into this Outreach Program.

What's more! A select bunch of them even underwent more specialized training for their added efforts and enthusiasm. They're an inspired lot, willing to take on the challenges, the pain and joy that come with learning new steps, combinations and fundamentals. And they have been inspiring in their perseverance to gain more, do more, be more!

They're getting stronger and a step closer to the dancers we see them becoming - gifted, glorious and gorgeous. Which is precisely why we need to be more conscious of their recovery, rest, nutrition and hydration.

As planned, we spoke at length about replenishing their bodies, eliminating negative body image, regulating their appetites, a dancer's dietary requirements and getting in the nutrients they need to be able to dance well into their futures. They've promised to care for themselves more.

That puts us at ease.
And now, it's time for us all to rediscover our clocks because the JUNOON went pretty berserk this time round, all round.
Dancing night and day.
Garba, Bharata Natyam, Ballet, and Garba again!
But we're all allowed to break the rules and break free every now and then.
Why, for all that Dance breaks us, liberates us and then, puts us back together.

Until next time,
May our little warrior goddesses continue to be the fiery, unstoppable, free,
incandescent beings that keep our JUNOON intact.