KOCHI: If you ask Susheela Pai, artistic director at Mudra Centre for Dance, why ‘movement therapy’ is an important one, she’d narrate a short story. “Once, a little boy was thinking aloud: my grandmother is always lying on the bed. She has air to breathe, water to drink, and the food of her choice is served to her. We’re all there to love and comfort her. But still she feels low. Why is that?” she finishes up the story and posits the answer with a winning smile, “Because there’s no movement. It’s imperative for people to keep moving and it’s as important as the basic necessities of life”
So then came the idea of ‘movement therapy’, something that Susheela picked up when she got back in touch with dance. “As far back as I can see my life, dance has always been a part of it. However, I had to take a 10-year break from it, and when I got back, I started taking classes in contemporary dance as well. That’s when the possibility of therapy through dance or movement dawned on me,” said the trained Bharatanatyam and Kathak exponent.
Her workshops bustle with people who come there to discover a part of themselves they never knew existed inside them, possibly wrapped underneath a stronger layer of denial. “I don’t ask them to dance because that would make them shy. I let them move to whatever rhythm they find to the music with their eyes closed. And it all depends upon the groups,” Susheela explained. “If it’s an all women clique, it unravels in one way, if it’s a corporate one, I get a different reaction, and breaking through little children makes a world of difference to my perspective as well.”
During a session with an all women group, when Susheela asked all the women to spread their legs and sit down, one woman came up with the doubt, “but are we allowed to sit that way!” “How much we take for granted the simple act of spreading our legs took me by surprise then,” said Susheela. “Which is why, at the beginning of all my workshops, I tell people that you’re here to give yourself the undivided attention and time, and not to me.”
The many activities at the workshop draw upon the latent energies of people prodding them to look deeper inside themselves. Be it a one-line complement that you pay to a stranger in the group or giving an account of what you want to do further in life to a fellow participant, one goes through varying levels of self-awareness. “I am not asking the participants to do anything. Neither am I passing judgments or painting their choices black or white. All I want for them is to break-free and make an emotional connect with themselves.”
Susheela added that breaking through the children at rehabilitation centres is quite a task. “They’ve been through so much already that they have their guards up, and don’t let anyone inside. A girl of 20 once told me not to make her do these activities, for she might break down, if she delves deeper into herself.”
To Susheela, being fit is about body and mind. “Too much focus is going into losing weight and building the body that the mind gets relegated to the background.” A facilitator at Amaara Foundation as well, Susheela intents to catch the tide of awareness and recreate her ideas through more elaborate workshops.