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Healing through dance, drama, music & art

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on January 29, 2012

Published: Sunday, Jan 29, 2012, 15:32 IST
By Alifiya Khan | Place: Pune | Agency: DNA

Picture this. A roomful of senior citizens, an old Hindi classic song playing in the background, a young pretty dance instructor calling the shots. Is this the career that industrial psychologist and trained dancer Maithily Bhupatkar had envisaged for herself?

“Absolutely, I love it,” comes the reply.

Maithily Bhupatkar (right) uses Dance for Parkinson’s Disease programme to treat patients (Source: DNA)
Maithily Bhupatkar (right) uses Dance for Parkinson’s Disease programme to treat patients (Source: DNA)

Bhupatkar is among the small group of professionals, who use art-based therapy (ABT) to heal people. A growing concept, ABT works in subtle ways but has been showing increasingly better medical evidences of its efficacy.

A promising career in HR with a leading IT company is what Bhupatkar gave up to pursue her passion. A few years ago, the dancer met Hrishikesh Pawar, who introduced her to contemporary dance. When he mentioned that he needed someone to handle his community project and a manager at his institute, Maithily jumped at the offer for the space and creativity it allowed her. With her academic background in psychology, she was offered to take on Mark Morris Dance Group’s programme — Dance for Parkinson’s Disease (DPD) in New York for two months.

“DPD works on movement-based activities; it’s not a formal therapy. People suffering from Parkinson’s have a mobility disorder. There are four problematic areas — rigidity or freezing of limbs, balance, tremors and gait issues. What happens after a few weeks or months of our dance sessions is that the person is able to move, his hands flow fluidly to the sound of music. This installs a great amount of confidence in person who finds basic activities like extending hand for handshake an uphill task,” explains Bhupatkar.

The initial journey to introduce DPD in Pune was difficult in 2010 as it was a new concept. Hospital tie-ups, contacting support Parkinson’s groups and screening films on DPD at festivals help spread the word. Now, not only has the DPD programme in Pune received fair response but they have introduced DPD in Mumbai as well.

Bhupatkar adds, “DPD not only gives senior citizens their balance and strength back but also helps them challenge their bodies. Doing a job that you simply love and gives equally to others as you is a great feeling,” said Maithily.

Taal Inc drummer Varun Venkit is also a clinical psychologist and holds a masters degree in neuro-linguistic programming. He combines his musical and medical knowledge to heal people.
He was 14 when he started playing drums; 11 years have passed since then. At 25, he is a grade 8 drum kit player certified by Trinity College of Music, London. Staring with various local bands in Pune, he soon became a part of Agnee, India’s biggest folk rock band. Professionally he cut a name for himself in drums and has performed with ace percussionist Sivamani, Jayant Sankrityayana, Derek Julien, Roger Dragonette, Sanjay Joseph and more.

The idea of drum circles where a group of people sit together and play hand-drums and percussion and communicate through music was introduced by his mentor Zubin Balsara.

“Music has a healing effect and we have worked with a wide range of people from students to corporates and drug addicts to children with learning disabilities to show the effect. Music is not just entertainment but helps in relieving stress and instills confidence,” said Varun.

On February 9 last year, Varun founded Taal Inc an organisation that conducts drum circles, school of rhythm and a band. “Drum circles are a community activity that act as stress buster and is behavioural intervention technique. People come together; beat the drums and their worries away,” said Varun.

While Varun and Maithily use one form of art for therapy, places like Rainbow Inc combine various forms of ABT-like dance, drama, music and even visual arts for healing. Pune head of the centre, drama therapist and dancer Anubha Doshi is also a clinical psychologist and holds a masters degree in communication management. With a strong base in Indian classical dances and performances in folk, she teaches dance and conducts dance therapy workshops for corporates and students. Though reluctant to talk about her work because of professional constraints, Doshi said drama therapy is useful in various settings like hospitals, schools, children with special needs and corporates.

“I can’t reveal details of workshops except that it involves many techniques like role play, miming, puppetry techniques that are used to help clients,” said Doshi.

For example, a story telling session used in dance therapy can be an effective tool to promote learning in children. The sessions typically involve using visual aids like puppets, using voice modulation and dance techniques to create dramatic expression that helps the brain in learning. Drama therapists use many such scientific techniques through arts that work in subtle yet effective ways for healing. “We work in schools with special children and those with learning disabilities and therapy has done wonders for them,” said Doshi.

(Source: 01/29/2012 – DNAIndia)

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