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The Healing Power of Dance

February 2008
The Healing Power of Dance

Last year, according to India’s Ministry for Women and Child Development, of the approximately 2.8 million prostitutes in the country, over 35 percent had entered—or, more accurately, been forced to enter—the sex trade before the age of 18. Activist Sohini Chakraborty, with the help of a Kolkata-based NGO named Sanlaap, reached out to some of these younger prostitutes by using dance as a means to boost their confidence and nurture their creativity. Dance/movement therapy, which originated in the U.S. back in the 1940s, has become so popular that an association devoted to it has over 40 chapters around the world. The American Dance Therapy Association describes it “as psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process that furthers the emotional, cognitive, social and physical integration of the individual.” Bangalore-based Tripura Kashyap, also a leading practitioner of dance therapy, has even written a book about it. Her Apoorva Dance Theatre, founded in 1994, has played a leading role in bringing therapy through dance to patients with physical and mental ailments.

Kashyap first became aware of dance’s therapeutic possibilities when she saw two blind children moving rhythmically as they played their flutes. Like the Anjika Manipuri Dance Troupe, which helps kids with cerebral palsy, Apoorva’s approach includes the use of modified indigenous dances. “Syed Sallauddin, another leading dance therapist of India, also focuses on children with special needs,” adds Pallavi Bhatacharya in Life Positive magazine. “His creatively choreographed therapeutic dance projects have won international acclaim. His dance drama, Ramayana, was performed by children of various kinds of disabilities, and elicited an overwhelming response from foreign audiences.”

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