Life has been tough for Shreya Karmakar, a transwoman who has been performing in dance bars to support her family. Now, a more dignified platform awaits her and others in the community where they can pursue their passion for dance while earning their livelihood. In an initiative to rehabilitate and empower the transgender community, Association of Transgender/Hijra of Bengal (ATHB) has started a dance training programme. ATHB plans to set up a troupe once the trainees perfect their moves. Dancer Alokananda Roy has stepped in to train the students at the Prakrati Dance Academy. The first class was held on June 26 in a classroom provided by Genius Kids in Garia. “I am looking forward to perform and earn in a more respectful way once we start performing in a troupe,” said Karmakar. “I had to become a Launda dancer to support my family. I faced sexual exploitation on many occasions so I hope this project will save me from a vulnerable life,” said Anuradha Sarkar. Despite being trained in Kathak and Bharatnatyam, the Rabindra Bharati University passout was not accepted in dance troupes because of her sexual identity. For the past three years, she has had to travel through Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha to perform at wedding ceremonies. “Some of them are really good dancers. I want to start it as a therapeutic venture. As people in this community have so much pain, I want to help them come out of their suffering. I will do my best to bring them to the mainstream,” Roy told TOI. “We will carry on with the training for about six months before we take up productions,” said ATHB project director Ranjita Sinha who is also a member of the state transgender board.
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