Ambika Kameshwar's A Dance with Butterflies reaches out to children with special needs

Fine arts awakens, beautifies, cheers, develops, energises, frees, heals and governs. Healing and enabling children with special needs to achieve their potential, is an approach to explore the joy in fine arts, in the style of Ambika Kameshwar.

Much has been written and said about Ambika, educationist, dancer, singer, choreographer, music composer and Founder Director of Rasa, Chennai, who was in Bangalore last month for her dance production, ‘Ramana Shanmatham'. Talking to her made one feel that there is no secret formula or science that makes her the person that she is.

A dance with butterflies, a metamorphosis of teaching and learning through theatre, is Ambika's experiment. The story of Rasa centre for theatre arts and special needs is a voyage of discovery of possibilities within an individual.

“As a person who has always believed that dance, music and drama are for more than just performing arts, it has been a God given opportunity for me to discover and develop the use of these very aspects of Indian theatre as developmental tools.

“Years ago, my belief in the universal aspects of dance and music, was reinforced when I worked with visually-impaired children from Ramana Maharishi Academy for Blind in Bangalore.

“This belief was strengthened by my interactions with the children from Spastic Society of India and it found structure as I expanded my work to children with Down's syndrome, mental retardation, other physical and mental disabilities,” says Ambika.

Ambika recollects the way at the Ramana Maharishi Academy for Blind, she instructed a child to run downstage, without considering the possibility of the child falling off the stage. To her surprise, the child stopped after exactly the number of steps he was told to take. From there, things took a turn in Ambika's life.

The magnitude of the mission was much larger than what an individual could achieve. So a team dedicated to the purpose was formed. Milestone after milestone was achieved right from registration of the organisation, Rasa, formulation of the diploma course in T.H.D (Theatre Arts for Holistic Development) and the birth of the Rasa day care centre, a recognised special school, with three branches currently.

From being immobile to moving, being non-verbal to communicating, the goal for a special child in Rasa is very specific, based on his/her potential. Their challenge is to break barriers.

With more than a handful of commitments, Ambika finds the time to dream further. One such vision is Natya Loka, a tribute to classical Indian theatre. Natya Loka is conceived as a one-stop experience through dance, music, drama, arts and craft, which will also house ‘Swasaara' (essence of self). “Each interaction, each experience continues to give me further clarity in my work with the performing arts and in life as well,” says Ambika.