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The Therapeutic Touch of Theatre

With his mop of curly hair and infectious smile, Vikramjeet Sinha looks nothing like what we imagine a drama therapist to be! And when like the piped piper, he leads children forward tapping a rhythm on the daf in his hand, you can see he is a natural leader.

Published: 18th October 2014 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th October 2014 10:49 AM   |  A+A-

Theatre

With his mop of curly hair and infectious smile, Vikramjeet Sinha looks nothing like what we imagine a drama therapist to be! And when like the piped piper, he leads children forward tapping a rhythm on the daf in his hand, you can see he is a natural leader. Looking at least 10 years younger than his 39 years, Vikramjeet entered the world of drama therapy 14 years ago. Drawn by working with children in the juvenile justice system in Mumbai, he then went on to hone his tools and approach in Kolkata, Delhi, Punjab, Manipur and most recently in Kashmir. Alongside this experiential learning process, Vikramjeet also went through a formal course at the World Centre for Creative Learning based in Pune.

Drama therapy emerged in England in the 1960s with its major proponent being Sue Jennings. It is part of a larger whole in which painting, dance, literature and the other arts are used for therapeutic purposes. The common ground for all arts therapies includes focus on non-verbal communication and creative processes within a trusting, safe environment where people can acknowledge and express strong emotions.

The basic belief is that the process of creating art can help people become more aware of feelings previously hidden from them, or of which they were only partly aware. Using art can sometimes help people release largely negative feelings such as anger and aggression, that they have held onto for years and in the process they become lighter and freer. It can be used as a means of self-expression and self- exploration. Working intensively with a small group of 12-15 young people traumatised by their own life stories (street children, those who have witnessed violence, the marginalised) Vikramjeet leads them through a series of structured exercise to construct symbols and cross ‘thresholds’ to become more resilient and in touch with their own feelings.

In his recent workshops in Manipur with teachers and students, he used the medium of the ‘mask’. In separate workshops, Vikramjeet gets teachers and students to create ghost masks and warrior masks. While the ghost masks capture our fears and the warrior ones encapsulate our courage, Vikramjeet feels the mask- building process helps us engage with these contradictory pulls. The children get a chance to engage with and articulate their fears, and begin to acknowledge their courage through the warrior masks. In another workshop in Khanpur, Punjab, he uses techniques such as ‘river of dreams’ ‘tunnel of difficulties’ and ‘ladder of jewels over the wall of obstacles to reach the garden of happiness’. The aspirations of these marginalised children come to the fore through painting, discussion and improvisational theatre, over a period of five days.

Theatre heals. It transports people away from their daily lives and into the realm of imagination and stories. Feelings expressed through drama therapy are given a container, a safe way of expression takes place, that is ‘held’ so it can be reworked. The reworking allows the group to gain perspective. Art therapy with refugees and with children in war torn zones is a recent applications.

feisal.alkazi@rediffmail.com



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