What turns a marketer into a dancer?
Dancing away to glory: Satyen Babla on following his passion
It takes a lot to give up a job that ticks all the boxes of a conventional life and follow your dreams. But the UAE is a land of opportunities for dreamers as well as realists. A case in point is Satyen Babla, the founder and chief executive officer of DANS, an award-winning dance and fitness studio that was first established in 2013. Satyen, 35, has double majors in finance and marketing and recently completed his MBA at the S.P. Jain School of Global Management in Dubai. Since its inception, DANS has travelled to more than 25 cities around the world, specialising in corporate stressbusters, unique team-building activities and human resource solutions through dance.
So, what turned a marketer into a dancer? Satyen recalls that he would often be nudged by friends to dance but had inhibitions. “I was triggered by this idea to take dance classes twice a week,” he says. He went on to become a dance instructor, and today runs the popular classes. The academy’s name is abbreviated to include all kinds of dancers — D is for dreamers aged 4-7, A is for achievers aged 8-12, N is for those with a natural flair for dancing aged 13-19 and S stands for stars who could be aged 20 and above. Satyen does not mince words when he says it does not matter if those who come to DANS can or cannot dance at the beginning. “For us, they are stars and are free to explore different dance forms that we offer to beat stress,” he says. “I was never formally trained or for that matter, never ever danced. One day, I decided to take up this passion with twice a week classes in Lamcy. I excelled in what I did and went on to become an instructor. So while I worked during the day, in the evenings, I would dance and teach other students.” The game changer was his association with choreographer Shiamak Davar, with whom he worked for three years. “Prior to starting my academy, I took up teaching dance on a freelance basis,” he recalls. The number of queries he got as a freelance dance instructor sowed the idea of DANS in his mind.
Just when he was about to take the big leap, questions arose on whether it would be wise to leave corporate world. “I decided to take this forward to beat stress via the medium of dancing. The popular dance shows you see on TV have come in the recent past. But when I started, it was just the beginning.”
The fact that one can dance simply to beat stress is an idea at the heart of DANS. From hiphop to freestyle to contemporary Bollywood, there are a number of forms one can choose from. Even traditional Indian dance forms like bhangra and garba are taught here. “There is no syllabus to dance we teach, we want everyone to enjoy the form of dance to express themselves. Dancing helped me break barriers and I have made all my money through it.”
The pandemic has been a challenging time for most businesses, and Satyen admits it tested his too. “I started getting queries from the UAE residents to take the classes online, and hence the journey never stopped,” he says. “The business did take a hit from a peak of being hired by seven schools and then numbers dropped as Covid-19 impact peaked in 2020. Our students are longing to have in-person sessions and we are optimistic to resume that soon as things get to normal.”
Today, apart from helming DANS, he is also one of the high-performing members of the networking organisation BNI, which has more than 250,000 members worldwide. No wonder then today Satyen espouses the idea of giver’s gain, a core philosophy of BNI that advocates helping others to help oneself.