Shuffling forward: Dance and my mental health

Date: 10 March 2022   Author: Energise Me

When Jasmine found out she was Dyslexic and Dyspraxic as a child, dance was the one thing to lift her spirits. Throughout her life, it has been the thing to support her through tough times with her mental health. Now diagnosed with Bipolar, she wants to use dance to help others in her community.

My name is Jasmine and I was born and grew up in Southampton. I come from a big family. I am the oldest of 4 siblings. At 26 I am a lot older than some of my siblings who are 21, 13 and 3 so I’ve always helped my parents look after them.


Dyslexia and Dyspraxia

When I was about eight I was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. I was really struggling at school. I remember being humiliated by teachers who used to stand me up and question why I didn’t understand the work. Eventually, I was sent to a specialist school where there were a lot less students and we had more one on one time with the teachers.

The whole thing really affected me. My confidence dropped massively. I wouldn’t speak to anybody and was really shy. To be honest I think I was depressed.

My mum spoke to the learning assessor and they suggested she try and get me into something outside of school that would help boost my confidence. They suggested something not academic where I could socialise. I tried loads of drama classes and different things but only one thing stuck.


Dance was the one place I didn’t have to speak. I didn’t have to do anything but watch and copy and the beat just clicked.

Starting and sticking with dance

I don’t know why, but the dance just clicked. I could just move with the teacher’s flow and I picked it up quickly. When school was telling me I couldn’t do things, it was the one thing I felt I was good at. Dance was the one place I didn’t have to speak. I didn’t have to do anything but watch and copy and the beat just clicked.

I think I accepted dance because it accepted me. It’s stuck with me ever since.

I started with Bollywood dance when I was a child and then, in college, I studied contemporary dance. It was the only A-level I got because I struggled so much.


Becoming a teacher

After college, I did take a break from dance, but it didn’t last long. I didn’t go to university because I just couldn’t learn in the same way as everyone else. I had to find my own way. In the end I did a law apprenticeship instead. It took some time but I got there.

In 2017 I started thinking about how Bhangra dancing was missing in Southampton. You can do it at the university but that’s just for students. There wasn’t a session that I knew about for the public. The nearest session I could find was London.

So, I decided to do something about it. I said to myself “Right in three months I’m going to start a Bhangra class”. At that point, I had no idea but I self-taught using videos online and then I went to some lessons with the University. I made sure to spend time learning about the history and where the style comes from. It’s important to do this as it can be hard to expose yourself to different cultures. I wanted to help others learn.

In October I held my first open event. It was a huge success with about 40 people coming. That’s when I knew it was time to start the classes. I was still working but started the lessons alongside my job.

Dance has always been there through these hard times. It’s 100% my coping mechanism.

Dance and my mental health

I’ve always had dance on the side of my job because it’s something I am passionate about. I’ve just always had a job in the legal sector or similar alongside teaching. It was going great until my grandfather died at the end of 2018.

It turned my world upside down. I had an abnormal grief reaction which led to a complicated case of psychosis. This resulted in me losing a lot of weight. It was bad. I came back to teaching at the start of 2019. It was scary, I had gone from a size 12 to a size 6. I wasn’t myself. I kept going with it.

However, halfway through the year I had bad stress and left my job. It was hard dealing with my own stuff and trying to teach classes and run performances.

Dance has always been there through these hard times. It’s 100% my coping mechanism. Dance has always interested me and I’ve stuck by it. It gives me an escape. It’s the one thing I can do where I am confident in my abilities.

It’s like dance has always hugged me in and told me, hand on my shoulder, it’s going to be alright.


The challenges of teaching

Teaching can sometimes be challenging. I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and panic disorder. I’ll teach a class and feel great because of the endorphins but by the next session, I feel like I can’t teach. It causes me a lot of anxiety, I feel like I am having palpitations before class.

It was a challenge to start with, especially when I lost my grandad. I wasn’t feeling myself and having to stand in front of everyone and teach a class wasn’t great. In my head, I was like “everyone is judging you”. I know it’s not true, it’s just that inner voice trying to mess with you. It can be hard to battle with them. I personally have to just throw myself out there and hope for the best.

It can be hard because dance is something I love and teaching almost threatens my relationship with it. Naturally, sometimes you just want to cut out all the stress.

I have to remember why I do it. I love seeing all the smiling faces. Getting feedback from people really helps. I have people who have been coming to my classes since the beginning and that feels really good. It’s nice to know people are with me on my journey and supporting me.

You just have to breathe and take it one step at a time.

I want to give them a safe environment to laugh, grow and be themselves.

Making a difference to others

I do have concerns that now I have been diagnosed with Bipolar people will judge me. But I am under treatment and doing well. I want to be open about these things to try and help others. In the Asian community, there can be a misunderstanding of mental health. It’s not talked about very much.

I like to think with my children’s classes I am helping the next generation. They might not be the next generation of Bhangra dancers, but they are the next generation of people coming into the world.

I struggled with my own sort of difficulties growing up and with the anxiety that comes from that, and I just want them to know that they are strong, and they can do things. My aim is to give them a safe environment to laugh, grow and be themselves.

I think when people are going through a diagnosis or having a hard time it’s important to know that things like Dance and exercising are there as a tool you can use to help you cope in the meantime.

If you are thinking about getting active, just get moving! Give every exercise a go because not one thing suits all but hey… I know bhangra is a good one to try!

Find out more about Jasmine’s Bhangra classes here.

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