Creating a cultural calm for corporate communities in Leeds through classical Indian dance
Travel and enjoyment of what the world has to offer may have been curbed in the last year but the corporate communities in the city have been able to tap into some classical Indian culture right here in Leeds.
Since moving to Leeds from Mumbai six years ago, Minoti Parikh turned to Indian dance to find her own identity again as she started a new life some 4,500 miles from home.
She started to share that by offering sessions to workplaces to help employees with mindfulness, well-being and taking time out from the day to day stress of the city rat-race.
By the time she had started to establish her business, TPL experiences, the coronavirus lockdown set in - and office working as we know it stopped almost overnight.
However, the demand for what her classes were instilling in people - based around movement, gentle exercise, creativity and culture - could not have been needed more and she carried on her courses virtually.
She said: “The first year being in a completely new city and you don’t know anybody - the hard work to build your reputation in another country is nothing in this country. I had to start from scratch and fell back to dancing to bring that identity back to my life. I set up corporate programmes and by the time I reached a level - COVID hit
“I know there are solid research based benefits but since last year there has been such a dramatic shift in terms of what people need. This did not exist to the great extent to what it has in the last year, and that gap needed to be filled.”
Arts Council funding was also obtained to deliver mindfulness sessions to third sector organisations and even after those sessions ended - class participants are asking for more. It comes as the city aims to promote its varied cultural opportunities ahead of 2023.
The city had been planning to make a bid to be crowned the European Capital of Culture 2023 but, due to Brexit, this collapsed. However, Leeds 2023 was set up to continue the work the city had been doing in preparation and to continue to promote its cultural diversity.
In some sessions she uses poetry to aid the movement and groups build up to writing their own poetry and creating their own movements, as well as then having the techniques to take away and be able to practice the art themselves.
The art is something that Minoti needed herself more than ever after arriving in Leeds. She moved to the city with her husband, as he re-located for work six years ago, leaving behind a successful career in India as a sports and TV presenter. She also has a Masters degree in Psychology and HR, and back then, Indian dance was a passion that took second place to her day job.
She said: “I used to practice Indian classical dance but that was more out of passion rather than a professional aspect, I was really busy with the sports and presenting live events but the idea was always to pick things up.
“I was very much into the human mind and what inspires us to do things and behave in a certain way. That was at the centre of everything that I did. With my sports show I was the first female television presenter in that sport, so I got a lot of criticism and had to overcome a lot of things, so dance really helped with my mental health.
“Bringing it to Leeds in the last year, I feel it was there at the right time and the right place and people find it uplifting, feel more positive and confident. That is the end goal.”