With the launch of the Creative Movement Therapy Association of India, Tripura Kashyap hopes to take this important sector of dance to a wider public.

Supposing you were to take snapshots of people on the street, in the crowded Metro trains and buses, in the vegetable markets and malls. Now imagine those pictures doctored so that the background is invisible and only the figures remain. Would not the Metro commuter look different from the vegetable shopper, and the vegetable hunter in turn have a different posture from the person strolling around a mall? And if your hidden camera were to capture a quarrelling couple, would their postures not betray the belligerent thoughts bubbling up inside them?

The body does continually speak its own language. We sometimes forget to listen out for its messages though. Similarly, you might notice something else in these hypothetical snapshots: the tight shoulders, the restricted arms, the bowed heads of ordinary folks going on ordinary errands, yet going about them as if they would rather disappear than be visible. For a country that has produced innumerable dance and theatre expressions, it would seem contemporary Indian society certainly has some hang-ups about the body.

One who has long felt the need to connect dance as an art with the art of living is Tripura Kashyap A trained Bharatanatyam and Contemporary dancer, she is among the pioneers of creative movement therapy — or dance therapy — in India, having worked on the concept since 1990. This past week, she and few other movement therapists launched the Creative Movement Therapy Association of India (CMTAI) in New Delhi. With three founder-directors — Tripura along with Manju Verma and Nilima Sil — the association has Reetu Jain and Nishtha Agarwal as co-founders.

While those in this field have been working in their own dedicated way for several years, Tripura notes, “I’m really excited, because at last I feel we are working as a network.” Tripura, who conducts workshops and lecture-demonstrations on Contemporary Dance and dance in education across India, says that because of the core group that has come together over the years, “there’s so much of brainstorming happening.” Tripura, a psychology major besides her dance and therapy skills, says the association has drawn people with varied training, such as marketing and branding, writing, and other disciplines that help them reach out to society at large. Considering India’s size and discrepancies, she had so far “not been able to connect the supply and demand,” but a formally networked organisation offers many advantages.

The launch also saw the announcement of CMTAI’s programme modules aimed at diverse groups and requirements, from stress release to self-awareness and gender sensitisation to general well being.

While Tripura has been offering short-term introductory courses in creative movement therapy for some time, it was in January 2013 that she instituted, along with Manju, Andrea D’souza and Asim Waqif, a 180-hour course in dance therapy spread over five months. While 18 successful participants came out of the first batch, the second course with another 18 students is now underway. The current faculty comprises Tripura, Manju and Andrea, along with Rashi Bijlani and Charu Shankar. The course is recognised in 130 countries. Along with the certification there is now a research-based internship programme too. This research is aimed at finding how dance changes people, in terms of using the body, social skills, etc.

While many acknowledge that Indian classical dance is akin to Yoga (when approached in the appropriate way), and that dance in general is a healing activity, India cannot claim a wide prevalence of dance being used as therapy so far. Tripura has nudged quite a few towards a serious exploration of the field. From among the workshop participants and the certificate holders, she estimates, “A lot of people — I know of at least 20 — have gone abroad (to do further training).”

CMTAI is in partnership with the International Dance Council (CID), the umbrella organisation for dance headquartered in Paris and represented in 155 countries. It has already declared its first annual conference, to be held on November 8 in New Delhi: “An Outer Expression of Inner Reality” — CMTAI’s first Aikya International Conference. The conference will be open to NGOs, corporations, educational institutions, individuals and groups wishing to explore creative movement therapy as a wellness or treatment tool.

Founding team

Tripura Kashyap, Director

Manju Verma, Director

Nilima Sil, Director

Reetu Jain, Co-Founder

Nishtha Agarwal, Co-Founder

Dance in Education: Participatory creative movement activities for various age groups. Fun-filled sessions focus on helping participants build movement language and relearn academic subjects like math, science, language, geography through dance games.

Gender Sensitisation through Movement: Individual and group activities developed around mirroring, body image, personal space, gender roles, feminine/masculine movement awareness, etc. help heighten self-awareness, gain freedom from social limitations, openness and peace of mind

Dance for Well-Being: Explores creative dance as a form of ‘movement meditation’ to release stress and gain a better understanding of one’s limitations and potential.

Movement for Self-Awareness: Activities focusing on isolated movements, body awareness and image, emotional expression, guided imagery and range of motion and movement qualities help participants gain an internal realisation which strengthens the mind-body connection and brings peace of mind.

Training through Movement for Teachers & Facilitators: The art and science of integrating movement into academic curricula for innovative and effective teaching

Release through Movement for Caregivers: Relaxation techniques, emotional expression, trust-building, movement energizers and stress busters, slow-paced music to calm the mind and body and fast-paced music to have fun and forget about the stress in their lives.

What the body can tell you: CMTAI programme modules