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Parwati Dutta on working with mentally challenged children
- Shveta Arora

May 9, 2016

Kathak and Odissi exponent Parwati Dutta of Mahagami, Aurangabad, talks about working with mentally challenged children.

What was your motivation to teach dance to children who are mentally challenged?
I feel dance is the most natural expression of a human being. Every person finds something different in dance and similarly, every kind of individual gives a different view, perspective or application of a dance movement. I found a very innocent and pure manifestation of dance movements while working with the mentally challenged children. In the process, as a dancer or dance trainer, I found a new meaning or dimension of dance and found how dance gave so much joy and imaginative satisfaction to them.

How do you think dance helps them?
Dance is indeed an inclusive art. It integrates body, mind, emotions and spirit. Every movement, while allowing the learner to work on coordination of limbs and other parts of the body, also facilitates concentration on listening to the beats or music. This enables the learner to focus on body-mind coordination and thus helps them improve their neuro-muscular faculties. Also, it gives psychological tranquility and joy that greatly motivates them to cope with their limitations.

What are the hurdles you face in teaching them and how do you overcome them?
The biggest problem is convincing parents and family to have patience and faith. Many families don't take interest in slow and consistent activities like teaching dance, and easily lose hope. It also requires a lot of tenacity and poise to work with such children as they have a short attention span and an erratic behaviour pattern. Education and awareness in this area can greatly help in eradicating ignorance.

How has teaching mentally challenged kids helped you evolve as a dancer and as a person?
Teaching mentally challenged kids has greatly helped me in rediscovering communication with others through dance in the most sublime, natural and spontaneous way. I learnt the underlying beauty of innate expressions and above all, it has helped me evolve as a human being. This deeper dimension in my dance journey has certainly nourished my imagination and creativity.

Have you done any productions with these children?
I presented a production named 'Sambhav' on World Dance Day 2015 with a group of mentally challenged children. We did short dance numbers based on Kathak and Odissi with themes like Sunrise, Varsha and Prakriti. Their hasta-mudras and expressions were very beautiful and I saw them enjoy the process of learning and presenting dance for an audience. It was a touching moment for everyone present.

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