When we were students, the concept of weekends and weekdays didn't matter much. Of course, there were assignment deadlines and exam anxiety, but not quite the same as starting a professional life.
The dynamics completely change with the 9 to 5 (depending on where you work) workload for five consecutive days. This, often dreary, routine makes people pine for weekends - a respite from work life - and to spend it leisurely.
But, in this concrete jungle named Dhaka, there are hardly any fun and productive activities to do on the weekends. And so, weekends have become synonymous with plans to visit fancy restaurants, gossip with friends or colleagues, or getting lost in the virtual warzone of PlayStation.
The choices seem dauntingly limited.
Riaduzzam Hridoy, the founder of B Latin, a Dhaka-based dance academy, believes that there is hope, that weekends can be a whole lot different, full of fun and a break from regular life that can rejuvenate our body and soul.
Being a job holder at a multinational company, Hridoy loved taking dance classes during weekends in his early professional days, which brought a positive change in his life. And to spread this positivity among others, he opened a dance academy in 2020, where he gives salsa and bachata lessons.
Hridoy has been an aficionado of dance all his life. In 2010, when he was a student at Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET), he was associated with "Joyodhoni," the only cultural club of the university, where he got the platform to unleash his talent in front of the mass people.
Back then, hip-hop was his favourite dance form. He even invented his own dance form named "Lyrical Ghetto," which combines the lyrical and ghetto dance styles.
In 2012, Hridoy made it to the top 12 of "Channel-i Shera Nachiye." However, as soon as Hridoy graduated and entered his corporate life, he faced hardship in balancing between dance and work.
After two years of taking a break from dancing, Hridoy started taking salsa classes on weekends from different trainers. "Dancing is therapeutic. It reduces our stress and enhances our stamina," he said.
Samia Aboni, an employee of UNDP and a student of B Latin, said, "In this country, recreational activities are far more accessible for men. I see my male colleagues playing different sports or going on late-night road trips during weekends which is barely an option for us."
Aboni took dance classes till she was in high school. But due to academic pressure, she could not pursue it any further. Now that she has entered a stable phase of her life, she is giving her childhood passion another try.
"I picked salsa dance form because it's light, symphonic and predominantly fun. There is no competitiveness, no pressure to stand out or anything. All I do here is be myself, relax my body and enjoy the steps," she added.
When asked what other activities she might want to do during weekends, Aboni said, "I would love to learn new skills like cooking, crocheting, piano or something like that. We have institutions for these, but their class timings do not accommodate our busy schedules."
On the other hand, Zahin Habib, another student of B Latin who works at an MNC, said, "The dance community here we have is a fun group. The majority of them belong to our age group and are going through a similar phase in their lives. B Latin organises plenty of social events where like-minded people come and dance."
Although the dance classes of B Latin are designed for corporate employees, people of any age and background can join. However, Hridoy tries his best to ensure that any new student meets a certain standard and has respect for the art and the community.
"Salsa is a dual dance. If someone does not have enough respect for the opposite gender, this dance form is simply not for them," said Ridoy.
A course at B Latin is usually six months long. Every batch consists of 26 people, equally divided between males and females.
"Polished manners are essential when it comes to salsa. For example, every salsa starts with the boy asking the girl, "Will you dance with me?" Hence, before starting the dance classes, I conduct a few classes to enhance the soft skills of my students," said Hridoy adding, "These are lifelong skills. I have seen my students use these manners in their personal lives."
However, given the orthodox cultural backdrop of our country, this form of dance is yet to receive mass acceptance. But Hridoy is very hopeful about it and believes that salsa will bring a constructive change in our culture.
Currently, B Latin has two branches in the capital, one in Banani and the other in Bashundhara Residential Area. The third branch in Dhanmondi is awaiting inauguration.