Tripura Kashyap launches virtual dance therapy

Tripura Kashyap   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Nothing succeeds like dogged continuity. Five months after India went into lockdown, the performing arts are seemingly secure in cyberspace.

Meanwhile, dance and movement therapy, a relatively less explored side of the Indian arts, has also acquired a major online presence. One might have considered therapy to be an area demanding in-person interaction, but for the past few months, the Creative Movement Therapy Association of India (CMTAI), among other organisations, has been working to develop modules for digital outreach.

CMTAI co-founder Tripura Kashyap says they have “reconstructed a plethora of individual and group-based approaches and tools from creative movement therapy and adapted them to the ‘new normal’.”

Enumerating techniques like creative visualisation, movement-based gratitude rituals, self-affirmation practices, body preparatory exercises, and relaxation routines combining breath and movement patterns have been adapted to “Telehealth-CMT,” Tripura says. “Therapists have also modified movement experiences to help nurture the inner selves of their clients, enhance endurance, encourage them to face a new reality, and also transform the pandemic crisis into aesthetic life affirmations.”

Welcoming as a creative challenge the need to modify activities based on rhythm, hand gestures, props, movement meditation, etc. for the online medium, she says that reduced travel and stay costs are an added advantage.

When Tripura mentions “acclimatising [the] mind-body continuum to the virtual world,” it sounds like a technical term for getting over the discomfort so many of us feel at having to talk to our screens. No wonder, among the population groups identified by CMTAI requiring “increased psycho-social attention during this pandemic,” Tripura names a whole spectrum of People Like Us: “Home-makers, educators, office-goers, school-going children and adolescents with or without special needs, the elderly in retirement homes, healthcare providers, people with borderline mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety as well as other marginalised communities.”

In effect, if movement therapists “use movement specifically designed to contribute positively to an individual’s or group’s well-being,” tele-CMT is its adapted version for the pandemic, tailored “for confined spaces in which people live — the location of the therapeutic intervention is on a gadget — PC, laptop or mobile phone.”

Preeti Rajagopalan

Preeti Rajagopalan   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Special sessions

The CMTAI recently started a series of ten sessions for children with special needs. The sessions are aimed at children and adolescents from age four to 18. “Usually, some of these children or adolescents are on the autism spectrum, or with Down syndrome, ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) with lack of social skills, speech delays, learning disabilities and other mental challenges,” says Tripura. “Some of them have physical challenges like a lack of body coordination or eye-hand coordination, balance issues, repetitive movement patterns and low muscle tone.”

Members of CMTAI who facilitate the online workshops for young people with special needs along with Tripura are Preethi Rajagopalan and Sukriti Dua. During the group sessions, young participants are usually accompanied by a parent, most often the mother, and sometimes a sibling.

Despite the obvious drawbacks of the virtual meeting space, Tripura remarks, “They love moving to music, enjoy rhythm and working with movement props like scarves or streamers. They verbally articulate what they want to do and express what they are feeling during the sessions. Their joy is infectious, and they surprise us all with their memory and sequencing skills of a ‘learnt’ dance. What is important in these sessions is that they try their best, with their parent’s help, to undergo all the activities during our sessions and also practise some of them during the rest of the week with their mothers.”

Reetu Jain

Reetu Jain   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Her methodology includes body preparatory routines, movement activities based on group awareness, icebreakers, partner work, rhythm development and movement cool down routines with breath. “We have done and memorised hand gestures from classical dance with Sa Re Ga Ma, we have done mirroring, shadowing, sculpture making, spatial awareness activities, storytelling through movement and creating dance studies with all their signature movement for their names,” adds Tripura, who holds a specialisation from the Hancock Center of Dance and Movement Therapy, Wisconsin, and is trained in a range of genres including Kalaripayattu, Mayurbhanj Chhau, Bharatanatyam and Jazz Ballet among others. Emotional and verbal expression are important aspects of her work.

Founded in 2014, the CMTAI also runs certificate courses in movement therapy and therapeutic dance in education. Now, CMTAI co-founder Reetu Jain is working on creating an M.A, programme in Dance Movement Therapy in affiliation with an Indian University — a course that does not exist in India at present, says Tripura.

“Our next venture is to begin zonal chapters of CMTAI across India,” says Tripura, with an aim to “resolve the urban-rural divide that exists in CMT and other arts therapy fields.”

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 10:29:22 PM |

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