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Move your troubles away!


At the launch of Creative Movement Therapy Association of India, Anu Gulmohar learns about the alternative therapy of dance and how the answers to our issues lie within our personal movement language
ANU GULMOHAR | Issue Dated: April 20, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : CMTAI | CID-UNESCO | Creative Movement Therapy | Rashi Bijlani |

As I held a balloon in my hand, I was instructed to toss it in the air and not let it fall. I complied. Then I was told to use only my fingers to keep the balloon in the air. Then one by one, from using my left elbow to my nose to even my bum, I tried to keep the balloon in the air, mostly unsuccessfully. A few light stretches followed.

“In Creative Movement Therapy a session usually lasts 45-minutes, and what you just experienced was a warm-up activity to get you in the groove and let the movements flow on their own,” said Rashi Bijlani, a registered Dance Movement Psychotherapist from ADMP, UK.

On 29 March, 2014, the Creative Movement Therapy Association of India (CMTAI), a CID-UNESCO partner, was launched in New Delhi. An independent, non-governmental organisation, it aims to bring together professionals, students, beneficiaries and supporters of Creative Movement Therapy across the globe. Its annual international conference, workshops, collaborative projects and training programmes will serve as a platform for knowledge-sharing, practice, networking and promoting the interests, education, research and benefits of Creative Movement Therapy.

Dance Therapy vs Creative Movement Therapy

Where this type of therapy is usually called ‘Dance Therapy’ across the world, the Association’s Founders have used the word ‘movement’ instead of ‘dance’. “Creative Movement Therapy is not just dance and that’s one of the reasons we have decided to use the term Creative Movement instead of Dance. Everyone’s level of movement is different. When we facilitate an exercise and play music, someone will move slightly, while another person might jump around. So, it’s about everyone’s natural movement. This is not only for dancers. Creative Movement Therapy is for anyone,” said Reetu Jain, Co-Founder of the Association. Creative Movement Therapy works with the natural dance patterns of people, called personal movement language.


Move, feel, heal

Creative Movement Therapy is the use of natural movement to tap into the emotional, psychological, mental and physical states to achieve self-discovery and freedom of expression.  A therapist facilitates activities that strengthen the connection between the mind and the body and increase awareness of one’s limitations and potential.  Participants expand their personal body language to achieve objectives such as personal development, leadership skills, stress prevention, increased mind/body self-awareness, heightened creativity, enhanced self-confidence, employee engagement and team building.

Like any exercise, dancing releases endorphins, creating a sense of well-being. The person’s body circulation improves, toxins are released, stress and tension accumulated in different parts of the body are released. As a person gets lost in dance, they stop thinking, and release negative energies from their being.  No wonder, it has been a part of healing rituals since pre-historic times.

However, it was only in 1940 that it transformed into a distinct therapeutic modality. The term ‘Dance Therapy’ was coined and American Dance Therapy Association formally acknowledged this discipline as, “the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.”

“There are two streams that have developed:  One is process oriented, where people do not have a performance at the end of the therapy, and the other is a performance oriented therapy, which is also called Therapeutic Dance. For example, Syed Salahuddin Pasha works with wheel-chair bound people, and uses dance as a performance medium,” said Tripura Kashyap, Director and Co-Founder of CMTAI. Pasha’s group is known as Ability Unlimited Foundation, which enables persons with disabilities to lead independent lives. Their dance productions are internationally acclaimed and include repertoires such as ‘Bharatanatyam and Sufi Dance on Wheels, Bhagawad Gita on Wheels, Sufi Dance on Wheels and Yoga on Wheels.

A comparison may be drawn between psychotherapy and dance therapy. While the psychotherapist encourages clients to verbally express their feelings, thoughts and ideas in order to resolve specific issues, a dance therapist helps the person use their body’s movements to express themselves. “I have seen dance help people build their social skills and confidence, improve their body coordination and go beyond their body movement limitations. And the magic of it all is that Dance Therapy, a non-verbal medium, actually helps people verbalise themselves. When you see people dancing together, they bond together at a different level, which is not verbal yet it makes them share their deepest thoughts and feelings,” said Tripura.

Explaining the process of a typical Creative Movement Therapy, Tripura said, “In a nutshell, the procedure of the therapy involves four stages:

1.The therapist begins by building a movement language with the individual.

2.They guide them into expressing their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

3.The patient, client or participants verbalise what they think, feel, including thoughts they’ve suppressed for long.

4.In the end, the therapist seeks a resolution of the issues. These learnings are then integrated into the real life of the client.”

Rashi Bijlani has been working with a lot of people with mental health issues like depression and addictions. She also works with children with Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, adults who have had learning difficulties and adolescents with emotional and behavioural difficulties. “The body is a very good tool to explore and express oneself, especially for children who are primarily non-verbal. They don’t have speech, but their bodies are still moving. I am trained in body movement analysis so just by observing their body movements I can understand their personality traits. To bring about a change in the body movements we need to bring about a change in the personality. So, it’s not from mind to the body, but we’re working from the body to the mind. Through the course of the therapy we give the patients a lot of coping skills and tools that can help them overcome the difficulties they’re facing,” said Rashi.

“Dance Movement Therapy is a creative and therapeutic process, which facilitates the integration of the body and mind as one. This integrated and embodied state brings about a heightened sense of self awareness. It is this self awareness, which is transformative. It is only when we understand ourselves will we have the power to train and transform our own minds,” said Sara Owen, a UK registered Dance Movement Therapist, currently volunteering with Kolkata Sanved, an organisation offering counselling, psychological rehabilitation and empowerment for victims of human trafficking and violence.


Setting the rules for moving

“Like in any other discipline, there are also many self-trained therapists. It is okay to see a bad dancer, because at the most your aesthetic sensibilities are hurt. But if you are a bad dance therapist then you will be playing with people’s lives. So, training is very important before a therapist begins working with people,” said Tripura. CMTAI is now beginning its courses in Chennai, Kolkota, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi.

Apart from CMTAI, Kolkata Sanved and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (TISS) offer a Certificate Course in Dance Movement Therapy. In Chennai, Women’s Christian College, in association with the East West Centre for Counselling and Training, also offers a diploma course in ‘Expressive art therapy.’

One of the current students of CMTAI is a training and development professional, and she intends to apply her knowledge of Creative Management Therapy in workshops that she will take in the future for corporate professionals. Another lady I met at the launch graduated from CMTAI last year and she spoke about how she is putting her learning to use with children facing mental and physical challenges, and plans to work especially with children affected by wars.


Divine movements

“To apply Dance Movement Therapy, in a country where dance is such an integral part of the social and spiritual culture, I have absolutely no doubt that the transformation here will be profound,” said Sara Owen at the launch of Creative Movement Therapy Association of India.

Her words reminded me of the spiritual guru, Osho, in whose ashram people danced and swayed to the Universe’s rhythm, and they miraculously healed from within and without. 

India is the country where traditional dance forms are grounded in praise of God. Dance has for long been a trusted path to reach out to the Gods. Why, the gods of the Hindu pantheon too are believed to have expressed themselves through dance. The Rig Veda calls Indra the leader of dancers, while Shiva is the famous Nataraja, King of Dancers.

Indian dance even allows a person to portray a God, and assume the persona of the deity in the performance. Creative Movement Therapy allows one to tap into the same divine energy, without going into the nitty-gritty’s of the various Indian dances.

So, to discover your divine power within, move, groove and perhaps try a Creative Movement session too?

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017